Injured gang up in effort to prove they can be active


O's officials watch Segui, Conine, Johnson work out

August 06, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - As Jason Johnson prepared to throw yesterday morning, pitching coach Mark Wiley stood to the left of the mound with his hands on his hips. Manager Mike Hargrove, hitting coach Terry Crowley and trainer Richie Bancells watched from behind the cage. Two injured players, Jeff Conine and David Segui, waited to bat.

Johnson hasn't been activated yet, and he's already pitching in front of a large crowd.

The Orioles are expected to keep Johnson on the disabled list beyond Wednesday, when he's eligible to return to the active roster. He indicated yesterday that he would go Friday against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, a move that would keep the other starters on normal rest, but the Orioles are listing Thursday's spot as "undecided," when Travis Driskill's turn comes up.

Johnson's most recent turn fell Sunday, when rookie John Stephens went six innings in a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Hargrove said he's still discussing rotation options with Wiley. "We'll see where it's best to plug [Johnson] in," Hargrove said.

Before the Blue Jays took batting practice yesterday, Johnson threw three simulated innings with short periods of rest in between. First base coach Rick Dempsey served as his catcher, while Conine and Segui represented the first hitters he has faced since a magnetic resonance imaging test confirmed tendinitis in his right shoulder.

"I felt absolutely great," said Johnson, who's 3-8 with a 4.44 ERA in 79 innings. "My arm feels 100 percent better than it did all year, and I think I finally got the explosion back on my fastball that I had last year."

His changeup was a little hard, which Johnson blamed on the layoff, but it improved during the last inning. "I've got one more sideline before the next start, so I can get my changeup back then," he said.

Johnson said he went three innings instead of four so he could pitch on Friday.

"He's got great stuff," Hargrove said. "I don't see how anybody hits him."

Gibbons gets another look

After missing two straight games because of a sore wrist, Jay Gibbons will be examined today when the Orioles begin a three-day homestand against the Minnesota Twins.

Hargrove expressed some concern over Gibbons' condition. A suture is pressing on a nerve in his wrist, and Gibbons will have arthroscopic surgery to remove it after the season. He has been able to play through the discomfort, but it has intensified within the past week.

Still waiting for Conine, Segui and Mike Bordick to return, the Orioles can't afford to lose Gibbons, who's batting .263 with 20 homers and 50 RBIs in 92 games. Chris Richard replaced him at first base yesterday after serving as the designated hitter in the past five games. Richard hadn't played in the field since Sept. 8, and hadn't been at first base since May 11, 2001.

"I was glad to be out there after all that time," said Richard, who made a diving stop to end the sixth.

As Johnson threw off the mound, Conine ran the bases behind him to further test his right hamstring. Conine went from first to third without aggravating the injury, and the Orioles expect to send him on a rehab assignment this week. Among the in-state affiliates, Single-A Frederick is home until Thursday, when Double-A Bowie returns from a road trip.

After 108 games, DH

Rest finally came to Tony Batista, but not in its complete form.

After starting every game at third base this season, Batista served as the designated hitter for game No. 109. Jose Leon replaced him at third.

Batista had been scuffling at the plate before going 5-for-10 with a home run over the weekend. He's 8-for-41 in his past 10 games.

Delgado sits again

The Canadian version of baseball's Iron Man missed a second straight game.

Toronto's Carlos Delgado was confined to the dugout again because of a strained muscle in his lower back. He had played in 432 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the majors.

Before Sunday, Delgado hadn't sat out an entire game since missing the last 10 in 1999 because of a fractured right tibia. He pinch-hit in July 16, 2001, to keep the streak alive.

Delgado also has a sore left knee that probably will require surgery after the season. "Now you can flip a coin," he said. "First it was the knee, now it's the lower back."

Around the horn

Pat Hentgen made his first rehab start in the Gulf Coast League, allowing two hits and striking out three in three scoreless innings. Hentgen, who hopes to be in the Orioles' rotation by September, threw 32 pitches. ... The Blue Jays designated reliever Scott Eyre for assignment and purchased left-hander Mark Hendrickson's contract from Triple-A Syracuse. Hendrickson played basketball in the NBA for parts of four seasons, most recently in 2000, with Philadelphia, Sacramento, New Jersey and Cleveland.

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