Richard hits camp, eyes earlier return

Orioles notebook

He hopes to be back before All-Star break

Baseball

March 22, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Chris Richard made his first appearance at the Orioles' camp yesterday, enduring almost two hours of strength and flexibility exercises, hitting off a tee and sounding confident of an earlier return than projected.

Richard had surgery on Nov. 5 to reattach his left shoulder capsule and clean some fraying in the rotator cuff, reserving a spot for him on the 60-day disabled list by Opening Day. The Orioles are prepared to lose him until the All-Star break, but Richard said, "There's a very good possibility I'll be back before that."

The club added two outfielders, Marty Cordova and Chris Singleton, and is taking an extended look at Jay Gibbons in right field. Richard could return as a designated hitter while unable to throw, though the Orioles apparently would prefer to wait and not risk another injury.

Taking his first swings yesterday, Richard hit about 40 balls in the outdoor cage. He's unsure when he will be placed on a throwing program.

"We're still making a decision on that," Richard said. "I'll find out in a couple days what kind of program we want to go with. I feel great. I feel ready to get going. I wish I could do more but they won't let me. I'm just taking it easy. It's good to be out there."

Richard has been rehabbing since the surgery, including sessions three times a week with a physical therapist in San Diego. He spent a significant portion of yesterday's workout performing weight exercises in the trainer's room and handling a small medicine ball with assistant trainer Brian Ebel.

"They're slow exercises," said Richard, who batted .265 with 15 homers in 136 games last season. "You have to take your time doing them and make sure you're not rushing anything. That's why it takes a lot longer."

He's intent on shortening the amount of time he spends on the disabled list.

"I'm not going to give any limits on it," he said. "We'll have to see how I feel after I start throwing and how I'm progressing when I get into doing baseball stuff. But I don't see it being that long."

Bale waits to pitch

A magnetic resonance imaging test on reliever John Bale's left elbow didn't reveal any structural damage, and he has been placed on a throwing program while waiting for another chance to pitch.

Bale, who had the MRI on Wednesday, continues to be bothered by recurring stiffness and discomfort in the elbow. He underwent surgery after last season to remove a band of tissue that caused a pinching sensation in his arm and abbreviated his stay in the Dominican Winter League. He's receiving treatment to reduce the inflammation.

"Everything looked good. There's just a little fluid in there," he said.

Trying to make the club as a third left-hander in the bullpen, Bale isn't sure how long the throwing program will last or when he'll be cleared to pitch.

"As far as them putting me in a game, that's up to them. I couldn't really answer that," he said.

Asked if the injury is jeopardizing his bid to make the 25-man roster, Bale said: "I wouldn't think so. There's no ligament damage or muscle tears or tendons. There's just a little rubbing in there, a little fluid. I'll just continue the treatments and hopefully get it out of there."

Towers experiments

Right-hander Josh Towers spent part of his five-inning appearance against the Cincinnati Reds yesterday experimenting with a new grip on his changeup, getting some promising results despite giving up five runs in five innings.

"He threw some good ones," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Towers also made some bad pitches after shutting the Reds out the first three innings. In a span of nine batters, he allowed a double, two triples and a home run as the Reds scored four in the fourth and one more in the fifth.

"I thought he lost his composure a little bit, but that's just an opinion," Hargrove said. "Nobody can get away with overthrowing. The good thing is that he caught himself and finished up pretty good. You learn from that."

Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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