Rehab stint puts Richard's return three weeks away

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

DH role could loom as he will hit, not throw, in Fla.

Conine eyes Friday return

July 03, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Orioles outfielder Chris Richard is scheduled to return to the club in three weeks after starting a rehabilitation assignment yesterday with the Orioles' Gulf Coast League affiliate in Sarasota, Fla.

Richard, who hit .265 with 15 home runs last season before undergoing left shoulder surgery in November, is still having trouble throwing but he's able to serve as designated hitter.

The plan is for Richard to report to Double-A Bowie tomorrow and Single-A Aberdeen on Monday before being re-evaluated. If all goes well, he will report to Triple-A Rochester and then the Orioles.

Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, said Richard will likely be back with the big-league club before he can throw 100 percent.

"He's in a throwing program now," Thrift said. "But I suggested he get that first base mitt back out, and take a lot of throws there."

The Orioles had hoped to have Richard back by the All-Star break, which ends July 11, but his return will probably be closer to July 21.

Even if he can't throw, Richard could be used as a left-handed bat off the bench. He led the club with 31 doubles and 49 extra-base hits last season.

Conine eyes Texas return

First baseman Jeff Conine, who has been on the disabled list since June 15 with a strained right hamstring, probably won't play in this series against the Anaheim Angels. But Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Conine could be ready for the Texas series, which begins Friday.

Conine continued to test the hamstring with running exercises yesterday. The Orioles could hold him back until after the All-Star break, but they need his bat back in the lineup.

Conine is batting .262 and, despite his absence, is still second on the team in RBIs with 45.

"We'll make that call somewhere in the next three or four days," Hargrove said of his return.

Ponson's blister OK

Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson had to leave Sunday's start after two innings because of a blister on his right middle finger, but he played long toss yesterday and isn't expected to miss Saturday's start.

"I don't think it's going to cause him to miss his next start," Hargrove said. "If it does it does, but I don't think it will."

Bedard: Rest, not surgery

Erik Bedard, the Orioles' top pitching prospect, was diagnosed with a slight tear of the ulna collateral ligament in his left elbow. Instead of having surgery, Bedard will try treating the injury with six weeks of rest.

Bedard, who is 6-3 with a 1.97 ERA at Bowie, was scheduled to play in the Major League Baseball Future's game on Sunday. But he will have to miss that showcase event, as well as the Double-A All-Star game.

"We were very pleased to learn it was not a full tear [of the ligament]," Thrift said. "Resting it for six weeks is a lot better than having surgery right now. We just hope the remedy works."

Hentgen vows to be back

Orioles pitcher Pat Hentgen has been throwing batting practice before extended spring training games in Sarasota, as he tries to come back from "Tommy John" surgery.

Hentgen, who underwent the major reconstructive elbow surgery on Aug. 9, went 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA last season in the first year of a two-year, $9.6 million deal.

He has vowed to try to pitch again for the Orioles.

"He's doing miraculously well," Thrift said. "He believes he's going to be ready to pitch in August. I don't know."

Around the horn

The St. Louis Cardinals, who were looking for starting pitchers before the death of Darryl Kile, have a scout in Anaheim to watch the Orioles this week. Tonight's starting pitcher, Scott Erickson, is a potential target. ... Mike Bordick's third-inning single was his 100th career hit against the Angels. ... Orioles broadcaster and Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan will be inducted into the Rochester Red Wings' Hall of Fame on July 19.

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