Cordova to open year on DL as O's choose cautious path

Bigbie recalled, Mora to start, as leg injury is given extra time to heal

April 01, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The last of the Orioles' personnel decisions didn't involve a third catcher or a long reliever. Unwilling to gamble on a lingering injury, they placed outfielder Marty Cordova on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with a strained right quadriceps muscle and activated Larry Bigbie, who had been included among the final cuts.

The roster move is retroactive to Thursday, and Cordova is eligible to return on April 12, when the Orioles begin their first road trip in Chicago.

Cordova, who would have started in left field today against the New York Yankees' Roger Clemens, aggravated the injury during Wednesday's exhibition game in Viera, Fla. Melvin Mora will replace him in the lineup.

"It's gotten better, but he became real aware of it the first game in Viera," manager Mike Hargrove said. "We shut him down, and it got better, but it's still too iffy for us to take a chance on losing him for a considerable time. So we'll DL him and get him healthy.

"With the area it's in, if you tear that, you're looking at considerable time on the disabled list - a month, two months. And we didn't think that the risk was worth it at this point. Had this been the 15th of September and we were in a pennant race, we might have made a different decision. But we felt the 11 days of the season you give up to get him healthy is a much better way to go. And I'm not sure how much he would have played with this injury anyway."

Cordova hoped to preserve his Opening Day start by serving as the designated hitter, but he might have compounded the injury while running the bases. He's had no difficulty swinging the bat.

"We could have tried to ease him through it," Hargrove said, "but it's been my experience that when you try to do that, sometimes it works but the majority of the time you end up reinjuring the muscle. And the second time is usually worse than the first time. It's one of those `better safe than sorry' things."

"The doctor told me he shouldn't play," said Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations. "I go by the medical people. Right now, it's Grade 2, and the last thing you want is for it to be Grade 3."

The Orioles signed Cordova to a three-year, $9.1 million contract in December after he batted .301 with 20 homers last season with Cleveland. He's supposed to replace Brady Anderson, who signed with the Indians as a free agent this winter after being released by the Orioles.

"It was their decision," he said of the decision to put him on the DL. "I wanted to DH, but they felt if I ran, it might become something much worse than it is. It's not something I wanted to do, but I guess it's their decision."

The injury occurred about two weeks ago, but Cordova attempted to play through it before succumbing to the pain in Viera.

"I tried to take care of it on my own, but it got a little worse," he said. "In Viera, it started to really hurt."

Bigbie and infielder Brian Roberts had planned to drive to Rochester, N.Y., where they would have reported to the Triple-A Red Wings, before yesterday's transaction. Hargrove praised Bigbie for being one of the club's most consistent hitters this spring.

Hargrove indicated that Mora would get most of the starts in Cordova's absence, with Bigbie providing a left-handed bat on the bench. Mora led the club with five homers this spring despite getting a late start while recovering from a fractured left ring finger.

Mora began last season as the starting center fielder, but he will be used in a utility role once Cordova returns. He batted .250 with seven homers and 48 RBIs last season.

Hargrove will bat Mora seventh in today's lineup, ahead of catcher Geronimo Gil and shortstop Mike Bordick. Jerry Hairston will lead off, followed by Chris Singleton, David Segui, Jeff Conine, Jay Gibbons and Tony Batista.

NOTE: Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley was struck on the forehead by a line drive hit by Singleton yesterday while throwing in the indoor batting cage. Crowley, who sat about 5 feet away from Singleton while soft-tossing balls to him, had a bandage wrapped around his head as assistant trainer Brian Ebel drove him to the University of Maryland Medical Center. One player who witnessed the incident said that the ball went through the protective screen, creating a gash that was deep enough that it probably would require numerous stitches to close.

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