Erickson: `Not worried about a thing'

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Elbow, mind-set are fine in 1st competitive outing since '00 major surgery

Baseball

March 04, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Orioles ace Scott Erickson proved he could be patient last year. Now, he wants to see results.

Erickson, in his first competitive appearance since undergoing radical elbow surgery on Aug. 8, 2000, accomplished everything the team hoped he would in a three-inning appearance against the New York Mets yesterday at Thomas J. White Stadium.

The only person who wasn't completely satisfied was Erickson, because he allowed two runs in his 49-pitch effort.

"I expected to do a little better," Erickson said. "I thought I could shut them out for three innings. If that's not what you set out to do, you shouldn't be out there."

Now for the rest of the good news. Erickson threw effortlessly and his fastball was clocked at 93 mph, about where it was when he completed his rehab program at the end of last season.

"That's good," he said. "That's where I want to be."

His command wasn't perfect. He got a few pitches up in the strike zone and gave up a few hard-hit balls, but how many starting pitchers -- regardless of their medical history -- are all that sharp in their first appearance of the exhibition season?

"Scott threw the ball well," said manager Mike Hargrove. "He maintained his velocity. He got some pitches up, but that's a function of getting out there and pitching."

Erickson wanted to pitch at the end of the 2001 season, but the team did not want to take any chances with its most experienced and successful starting pitcher. Instead, he rehabbed his elbow until the final days of the season, then treated the off-season like any other winter.

Since he felt he was ready six months ago, his first competitive appearance figured to present more of a mental hurdle than a physical one, but Erickson said he had no apprehension when he went to the mound.

"I'm treating this spring as if there was no surgery," Erickson said. "I'm not worried about a thing."

One to go

Pitcher Calvin Maduro is the only "zero-to-three" (less than three years of major-league service) player who has not agreed to terms on a new contract, but club officials have the option of renewing him at any salary they choose -- provided the major-league portion of the contract meets the major-league salary minimum and the club does not cut his 2001 major-league salary by more than 20 percent.

Agent Barry Praver is expected to resume negotiations with the club today. The situation must be resolved by the renewal deadline on March 11.

Poor vacation planning

Minor-league outfielder Darryl Brinkley thought a postseason trip to Australia last year was a pretty cool thing, until he found out what it cost him.

Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said yesterday that the club was set to call up Brinkley to the big-league club in September to fill out an injury-depleted roster, but couldn't locate him.

"Andy [Echebarren, Rochester manager] told us that he was swinging the bat better than anyone on the team," Thrift said. "He said Brinkley was ready to hit in the majors."

Brinkley, a six-year professional who has never played in the majors, still is kicking himself.

"I wish you hadn't brought it up," he said yesterday with a laugh. "My wife just talked me into cheering up about it a couple of weeks ago."

Teeing up

As the team bus pulled away from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Melvin Mora grabbed a bat and headed out to the cage for another round of hitting off a tee.

Mora took 30 swings Saturday, his first since breaking the ring finger on his left hand in January. He hoped to exceed that total yesterday.

"It feels fine," he said. "I hit a couple of balls hard to see what would happen. Nothing. But I've got to be careful."

Mora estimated that he'd be ready to play "maybe in a week." He'll serve as a utility player this season, with Chris Singleton replacing him in center field.

Pressing on the knuckle, Mora said, "It's just a little bit of pain here. As soon as it goes away, I'll be all right."

Mora hasn't appeared in a game since suffering the injury while trying to steal a base during a winter league game in Venezuela.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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