Pop goes preseason for O's lefty Parrish

Reliever hurts knee making defensive play

March 06, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Already short a few middle infielders, the Orioles lost a left-hander in their bullpen yesterday when John Parrish crumbled to the ground with a knee injury in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Parrish, in turn, most likely has lost any chance of making the club.

After walking the leadoff hitter, Dustan Mohr, and throwing a wild pitch, Parrish made a lunging grab of a sharp bouncer by Todd Sears and instinctively ran toward Mohr, who headed back to second base. Parrish threw to Jerry Hairston covering the bag and veered toward shortstop before hearing a popping sound in his knee.

As Hairston made the tag, Parrish hopped on one foot, then collapsed in pain. Trainer Richie Bancells and manager Mike Hargrove assisted him off the field, and Lee Marshall entered the game to get the last two outs.

Parrish was expected to have a magnetic resonance imaging test last night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Examined by the Twins' team doctor in the trainer's room at Hammond Stadium, Parrish emerged confident he hadn't torn the anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament in his knee.

Even if Parrish escaped with only a sprain or a dislocated kneecap, he'd likely miss at least two weeks of spring training. Competing with John Bale and Sean Runyan for the third left-handed relief spot, he'd probably be assigned to Triple-A Rochester's bullpen while the Orioles opened their season April 1 against the New York Yankees.

Parrish was careful not to put much weight on his right leg while moving toward his locker, and he skipped the post-game shower. The knee had filled with fluid and was swollen, making it more difficult to give an immediate diagnosis.

"It was doctor talk, so I wasn't really sure. All I heard was an MRI tonight," Parrish said.

"It looks pretty good, because it's not my ACL or MCL. It might have been just my kneecap popping in and out giving me that sharp pain. I think it more or less scared me. Hopefully, everything's all right. We'll find out tonight, but as of right now, I don't think it's really that serious."

Parrish, 24, executed the play perfectly and simply was trying to get out of the way after making the throw. "I've never heard it crack like that, and sharp pain went down my leg. I was scared that something was wrong," he said.

"That's not good," Hairston said. "When you hear a pop, that's not a good sign. He went down pretty hard and pretty quick."

In a sense, Parrish was being punished for having the athleticism to field a ball most pitchers wouldn't have touched.

"Not only did he make a great play to stab it, he had the wherewithal to get the guy in a rundown and get him out. He did what he had to do," Hairston said.

Parrish, who made 16 appearances with the Orioles last season, never has dealt with an injury to his right knee. He's sprained the left knee, but otherwise hasn't confronted anything more serious than shin splints.

"At first blush, you think it would probably require surgery, but you don't know," said Hargrove. "Usually when you hear something pop, it's not good."

Neither were Parrish's chances of making the club. Though in the mix, he still hadn't been able to harness a mid-90s fastball. Lacking control of the pitch, he threw six straight balls yesterday.

Vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift seems convinced Parrish's command "will come," adding the problem only exists with the fastball. Parrish, who walked 17 in 22 innings with the Orioles last season, has better control of his breaking stuff.

"Nobody hits it," Thrift said.

In his other spring appearance, the Lancaster, Pa., native allowed two runs and four hits - including a homer - in one inning. Bale has given up one run in two innings. Runyan, injury-prone since making 88 appearances with the Detroit Tigers in 1998, has thrown one scoreless inning.

The Orioles would prefer taking one more left-hander to Baltimore, giving them another option besides Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan in a seven-man bullpen.

For now, they'd settle for getting healthy.

Luis Rivera won't pitch this spring because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, which required surgery last March to repair a torn labrum. And Rodrigo Lopez, the Mexican League standout once vying for the fifth starter's job, hasn't appeared in a game because of an ankle injury that's slowly improving.

Infielder Brian Roberts remains shut down with inflammation in his right elbow - an MRI showed bone chips that could require surgery - and utility player Melvin Mora began hitting off a tee over the weekend as his fractured left ring finger heals. Infielder Howie Clark, scheduled to make yesterday's trip, stayed behind with a sore right quadriceps.

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