Spurgeon taking it slow after lost season

Orioles notebook

Injury-riddled 2001 was setback after rapid rise in 2000

Baseball

February 18, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Though he didn't ask for a demonstration, Orioles pitcher Jay Spurgeon has been reminded of baseball's fickle nature. One year after racing through the minor-league system at a speed better suited for the Daytona 500, he was put on blocks and kept in storage.

Spurgeon followed a poor showing in spring training by injuring his left shoulder while diving for a ball at Triple-A Buffalo on July 2. The dislocation ended his season at Rochester, necessitated surgery near the end of the month and pushed him further from the Orioles' plans, with news coming later that he had been taken off the 40-man roster.

So much for the momentum gained after rising from Single-A Frederick to the majors in 2000, when he made four starts among his seven appearances with the Orioles.

"It's funny how fast you go from being in the loop to out of the loop," he said.

At least he's back in camp.

"I'm going to take it slow," he said. "It's where you end up. In 2000, I started out in A ball. It doesn't matter where you start, and that's my focus. If I make the club out of spring training, great, but if not, it's not the end of it. If I'm pitching well, I'll get the call."

Spurgeon spent six days with the Orioles last season without getting into a game. The injury occurred in his first start after returning to the Red Wings.

"I definitely consider it a lost season," said Spurgeon, the organization's minor-league Pitcher of the Year in 2000. "I screwed myself out of an opportunity to pitch here."

Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, still holds Spurgeon in high regard, though the right-hander has been bypassed in the organization by a group that includes Josh Towers, Rick Bauer, Sean Douglass and John Stephens.

"That's all right. He's still there," Thrift said. "He's a good kid and a great athlete. I'm never going to bet against an athlete."

Happy to be here

Doubts surround Orioles pitcher Chris Brock. But it's better than being next to Larry Bowa.

Brock is grateful for the Dec. 14 trade that separated him from the Phillies manager, who limited Brock's appearances last season and buried him at Triple-A.

"I knew I was going somewhere. Larry and I didn't get along for some reason. Something happened, but I don't know what," said Brock, a 1992 draft choice of the Atlanta Braves.

"Halfway through the year I knew he didn't care for me much, or someone over there didn't think I could help them anymore," he said. "It's not my place to say `Why?' or `What happened?' Just give me a chance somewhere."

Brock made 63 appearances with the Phillies in 2000 under former manager Terry Francona. He got into 24 games last season before being designated for assignment on June 19 and outrighted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

At least the trade, which sent reliever John Wasdin to the Phillies, didn't sneak up on him. He had been told by club officials of their attempts to move him. Now he'll strive to pitch in the majors for his fourth team, including the Braves and San Francisco Giants. Wasdin, meanwhile, was let go by the Phillies and will pitch in Japan.

"This is a good place to come. I'm just happy to be somewhere where I'll get a chance," he said.

Manager Mike Hargrove indicated that Brock could be used as a spot starter along with filling Wasdin's long and middle relief roles.

"I haven't heard anything and it's too early to know," Brock said. "I just want to pitch. It doesn't matter when or where, starting or relieving. Just as long as I get to pitch."

Splitting hairs

The Orioles' changed appearance will extend beyond Cal Ripken's retirement, Brady Anderson's release and a cartoon bird on their sleeves.

Hargrove has instituted a stricter policy regarding facial hair. Unlike the past two seasons, players no longer are permitted to have beards or goatees, and mustaches can't extend below the corners of the mouth.

"I lost my good luck charm," said pitcher Jason Johnson, who went from 1-10 to 10-12 after growing a patch of hair on his chin.

The code had been relaxed under Hargrove during his first two years as manager. It also extends through the minor-league system.

"I haven't caught any flak from anybody because of it," Hargrove said.

Around the horn

Second baseman Jerry Hairston and outfielder Tim Raines Jr. reported yesterday, two days before the deadline for position players. ... Pitcher Luis Rivera, who was involved in a minor car accident in Mexico and told to appear in court, still hadn't shown up at camp as yesterday's workout concluded.

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