Injury bug continues to take bite out of O's

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

J. Johnson and Batista miss game against Mets

Baseball

March 09, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It has gotten to where Orioles manager Mike Hargrove would be better served writing out his lineup about 10 minutes before the first pitch. More late scratches were made for yesterday's exhibition game against the New York Mets, including the starting pitcher.

Jason Johnson was held back because of a split nail on his right middle finger, while third baseman Tony Batista didn't play for the second straight day because of recurring headaches.

Johnson wore a bandage on the finger, which was hit by a ball during pre-game drills Thursday. The tentative plan calls for Johnson to pitch today against the Texas Rangers in Port Charlotte, Fla., but he might be withheld as a precaution.

"It hit me square on, right on the nail," said Johnson, who hasn't allowed a run in five spring innings - including three in a B game that isn't official.

"We still have three weeks left of spring training and there's no doubt in my mind I can still get ready if I take a few days off. I don't want it to get any worse than it already is."

"We'll see if it's better tomorrow," Hargrove said. "It's nothing big."

Johnson didn't welcome the break. He allowed one hit in his debut and three more in the intrasquad game, along with three strikeouts, despite the team's late arrival to Jupiter, Fla.

"I feel like I'm in a groove," he said. "I've been throwing the ball exactly how I wanted to. My fastball is exactly where I wanted it. My changeup was great my last start. My curveball and slider are coming along.

"Everything's really falling into place. That's why I was kind of upset that I was missing this start."

Batista wasn't in uniform yesterday and has requested a magnetic resonance imaging test today after complaining of sharp pain that runs from behind his neck to the top of his head.

"I'm just a little worried about what it could be," he said.

"He's been having occasional headaches," Hargrove said. "He wants to have it checked out, and I don't blame him."

Hargrove already had written Batista's name into today's lineup. He also was prepared to make out a different one.

"That's always the way it is in spring training, especially about this time. Little aches and pains start showing up," Hargrove said.

Interest in Alfonseca

Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, confirmed "mild" interest in Florida Marlins closer Antonio Alfonseca, who led the National League in saves two years ago.

The Marlins are looking to deal Alfonseca, who will earn $3.55 million this season. He hasn't pitched since having surgery for a herniated disc in October, and the Orioles want to make sure he's healthy.

"They contacted us, not vice-versa," Thrift said.

The Marlins need another left-hander in their bullpen, but the Orioles apparently won't give up B.J. Ryan.

B. Roberts gets good news

The latest MRI on Brian Roberts' right elbow didn't reveal a stress fracture, and the infielder resumed baseball-related activities before yesterday's game.

Roberts took ground balls on the back field and did some hitting in the outdoor cage. Rather than face live pitching, Roberts swung at balls flipped to him by hitting coach Terry Crowley.

The inflammation is clearing in Roberts' elbow, but he still could need surgery to remove bone chips. Roberts said he might try to play "in two or three days."

Melvin Mora's return from a fractured left ring finger has been delayed by another injury. He's receiving treatment for a strained calf muscle.

"My hand is healed. It's as strong as the other one," he said.

Around the horn

Hargrove isn't prepared to name his Opening Day starter, but Scott Erickson is lined up for the April 1 honor. ... Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Albert Belle's forced exit from baseball because of a degenerative hip condition. ESPN is filming a SportsCentury segment on Belle, to be shown March 29. So far, Belle and his twin brother/adviser, Terry, haven't participated. ... The Orioles are holding the first of their three "tag days" today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Camden Yards. Fans interested in purchasing full-season tickets for 2002 or any of the six mini-plans can select seats that are tagged and available throughout the ballpark. Other tag days are scheduled for March 16 and 23.

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