Hentgen pitches in simulated game, throwing pain-free

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

On rehabilitation road, pitcher goes six innings

minor-league tour next

July 31, 2002|By Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko | Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles pitcher Pat Hentgen pitched six innings without pain in a simulated game at the club's minor-league training complex yesterday, keeping the team optimistic that he can be back in the starting rotation by September.

Hentgen, who is nearly 12 months removed from ligament-replacement surgery in his right elbow, will likely begin his 30-day, minor-league rehabilitation assignment this weekend.

The tentative plan is to have him make one start for Rookie-level Sarasota, and then gradually climb the ladder from Frederick to Bowie to Rochester before returning to the Orioles.

"I feel pretty good," Hentgen said, wiping away sweat from the early-afternoon Florida heat. "I'm throwing pain-free. I haven't quite gotten my arm strength back to where my fastball was, but I think my other pitches are pretty darn close."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, pitching coach Mark Wiley and professional scout Bruce Kison watched yesterday's simulated game, seeing Hentgen pretty much dominate three young minor-league hitters.

Hentgen threw 90 pitches, and his fastball reached 85 mph, which is only about 5 mph slower than he threw before injuring the elbow.

"I don't think we could hope for any more for where he's at right now," Wiley said.

Hentgen is signed only through the end of this season, but the club holds a $6 million option for next year, and Orioles vice president Syd Thrift hasn't ruled out the possibility of bringing Hentgen back.

"We're rooting for him to make a strong comeback," Thrift said. "I would like to see him here in 2003. We don't have any other Cy Young winners. He's a model for our young pitchers."

Hentgen, 33, is so focused on coming back this season, he's not dwelling on the contract questions.

"It's out of my control," he said, "and I know that this year I have some control. If I can get back, and get my arm strength back, and join the team and hopefully help us win, that would be ideal. But as far as next year, it's out of my control, and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

Segui and Conine updates

David Segui and Jeff Conine were both hitting balls sharply yesterday during early batting practice, but their progress has been slow recovering from their respective injuries.

The switch-hitting Segui is able to swing only left-handed, and Hargrove said he is still a long way from returning from the disabled list.

Segui, who had left wrist surgery on May 21, also could wind up facing a suspension or fine for going onto the field during Sunday's benches-clearing brawl with the Boston Red Sox.

Major League Baseball prohibits players on the DL from going onto the field during altercations, and Red Sox manager Grady Little has already pointed out Segui's actions to the Boston media.

Conine, who strained his right hamstring on June 14, has resumed his running exercises. Once he is able to run the bases without pain, he will be sent on a brief, minor-league rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the roster.

Johnson on top of it

When Sunday's brawl unfolded at Fenway Park, pitcher Jason Johnson said he never considered the possibility of getting stuck under a mass of bodies or having his arm yanked and causing further injury to his right shoulder.

"I was on top of the pile," he said.

"I never even thought about it. The whole time I was out there, I was trying to see who was in trouble and help them out. It never really crossed my mind to watch out for my shoulder. Luckily, nothing happened to it."

Alvarez a pricey bust

Wilson Alvarez, who has spent most of his five seasons with the Devil Rays on the disabled list, will throw batting practice before tomorrow's game.

Alvarez missed the entire 2000 and 2001 seasons after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, and is 17-25 since joining Tampa Bay. He lasted through 10 starts this year, going 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA, before tendinitis in his left elbow again put him on the DL.

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