O's lose Parrish for the season

Left-handed reliever's knee injury proves to be torn ligament

Other prospects move up

Injury `such a shame' after intensive winter conditioning program

March 07, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles pitcher John Parrish, attempting to make the club as a third left-handed reliever, is expected to miss the entire 2002 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Tuesday's exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins.

A magnetic resonance imaging has confirmed the tear, along with the suspicions of a club "hoping for the best and expecting the worst. We're not surprised that this is the diagnosis," manager Mike Hargrove said.

A team official said there was no damage to the medial collateral ligament. Parrish was re-examined yesterday after arriving at the ballpark on crutches. "I didn't think it was that bad," he said. "After the pain went away, I was like, `I'll be fine,' but then the leg stiffened."

The knee flared up Tuesday night after Parrish lay down in bed, but he again became optimistic once the pain subsided. Official word came yesterday that he'll need surgery in three weeks to replace the ACL, with the procedure taking place at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The delay provides time for the fluid to drain and the leg to strengthen and become more flexible.

"The stronger you go in, the quicker the recovery," he said.

The Lancaster, Pa., native, who made eight starts with the Orioles as a rookie in 2000, is hoping to pitch with the Rookie League Gulf Coast team in Sarasota, Fla., late in the summer.

"I'm not going to give up by any means," he said. "I'm going to keep working hard and maybe get in a couple innings."

Said Hargrove: "We don't have any idea how long he'll be out. He has very little swelling today. He'll have it surgically repaired, and once that's done we'll give a prognosis on how long he'll be out. But for the indefinite future he's not going to be available."

Parrish, 24, was injured after making a lunging grab of a one-hopper to the mound and racing toward Minnesota's Dustan Mohr, who retreated to second. Parrish flipped the ball to Jerry Hairston and veered toward shortstop while trying to avoid a collision with Mohr. He heard a popping sound and collapsed in the dirt. Hargrove and trainer Richie Bancells assisted him off the field.

"Pain just shot down my leg," he said.

Examined by the Twins' team doctor, Parrish left Hammond Stadium convinced he had avoided a serious injury. He'll instead be removed from the bullpen competition, with John Bale the most likely candidate to become the third left-hander if Hargrove wants one. Sean Runyan has an outside chance at heading north with the team.

"This enhances everybody's chances of making the ballclub. There's one less guy in the mix," Hargrove said. "Runyan moves up a spot or two."

Disappointment comes at many levels for Parrish, who appeared in 16 games with the Orioles last season and bounced between the rotation and bullpen at Triple-A Rochester. He wanted to be on the roster for Opening Day, a reward for the many hours spent this winter with Tim Bishop, the club's strength and conditioning coach.

Parrish took part in Bishop's off-season program, working out for 3 1/2 months, five or six days a week, with other prospects and some veterans.

"This was probably my best year for working out," he said.

"He was never out of shape," Bishop said, "but he clearly made a commitment to participate every day. He was never late, which isn't easy, because we started pretty early some mornings. To see him work so hard and have this happen is such a shame."

Hargrove described the injury as a "freak accident," similar to what happened with Chad Allen last season. In camp as a nonroster player, Allen blew out a knee making a throw from the outfield.

"John didn't twist it, he just stopped," Hargrove said. "He got the guy caught in a rundown, gave the ball up to the second baseman, did everything the way you're supposed to do it. He's got to be disappointed. We're disappointed. John was having a good camp. Now, we'll have to re-adjust."

Parrish made a rousing debut against the New York Yankees two years ago, striking out nine batters in seven innings to match Sammy Stewart's club rookie record. He struck out the side in the first inning, putting away Chuck Knoblauch, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams.

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