Pitchers, catchers get things started

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Rivera, Gil no-shows, but absences are excused

Hargrove faces questions

February 16, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - With their blood tests complete and body-fat counts recorded, the Orioles' pitchers and catchers took the field late yesterday morning for their first workout of spring training.

Luis Rivera and Geronimo Gil were no-shows, but they had excused absences. They are expected here this weekend, with Rivera a long shot to make the backend of the rotation and Gil competing with Fernando Lunar for a reserve role behind starting catcher Brook Fordyce.

Rivera, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last March, was involved in an automobile accident in Mexico and had to appear in court yesterday. Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, said Rivera wasn't injured.

Gil, who batted .293 in 17 games after a waiver-deadline trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, also was detained in Mexico but should arrive today.

Questions abound for Mike Hargrove in the starting rotation, bullpen and lineup. He must sift through candidates like Calvin Maduro and rookies Sean Douglass, Rick Bauer and John Stephens for the fifth starter's slot. He also must determine if Willis Roberts is ready to become the full-time closer, or go with a committee that might include Jorge Julio and Kris Foster. He must find a leadoff hitter from a group that includes Jerry Hairston, Mike Bordick, Brian Roberts and newly acquired Chris Singleton.

Anything else?

"I'd like to see our young kids really push the people who have been here," Hargrove said. "I'd still like to see us get through with nobody getting hurt or being shut down even for two, three or five days. I know that's probably unrealistic, but if there's a wish list out there, that would be on it."

Hairston had a .233 average and .305 on-base percentage, numbers better left near the bottom of the order. But the Orioles are hoping he can modify his approach at the plate.

"Jerry's talents make me think he's a prototypical leadoff hitter," Hargrove said. "He has speed, and he's an aggressive base runner. But obviously there's some things Jerry needs to do better."

Another arm problem

Intent on keeping Dr. James Andrews busy, the Orioles had another pitcher undergo surgery this winter by the Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic specialist.

Reliever John Bale had an arthroscopic procedure on his left elbow in November to clean out a band of tissue between two joints that caused what he described as "a pinching sensation." Bale left the Dominican Winter League after two weeks when the discomfort persisted.

"I had gone down there because I was feeling a little better at the end of the season," said Bale, whose innings were limited with the Orioles because of recurring stiffness in his forearm.

Bale has been throwing for about six weeks and will contend for a bullpen spot. Hargrove said he projects Bale and left-hander John Parrish as relievers rather than candidates for the fifth starter's job.

Hargrove would like to take three left-handed relievers to Baltimore when camp breaks, including Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan, but he would settle for a fifth right-hander if necessary.

Early arrivals

Position players aren't due to report until Tuesday, with the first full-squad workout the next day, but outfielders Jeff Conine and Chad Allen were early arrivals yesterday.

Conine, who most likely will start in right field if David Segui can play first base on a regular basis, found out he'd have a different locker this spring - the one previously occupied by Cal Ripken.

"I put in my request last year," Conine said jokingly.

Allen is a nonroster invitee who spent parts of three seasons with the Twins before blowing out his right knee in August while chasing a ball last summer.

The injury occurred in Cleveland, and Allen needed surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and cartilage.

Allen, who turned 27 on Feb. 6, is a career .275 hitter with 14 homers and 73 RBIs in 706 major-league at-bats.

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