Back from DL, Conine starts at first

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He had missed 45 games with strained hamstring

Clark sent to Rochester

August 08, 2002|By Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko | Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Jeff Conine returned from the disabled list last night for the Orioles after missing 45 games with a strained right hamstring, having convinced the team he didn't need a minor-league rehabilitation assignment.

Conine said he has been pain-free for more than a week, but he knew he couldn't be quite sure it is 100 percent until he tested the hamstring at full speed in a game. After getting injured on June 14, Conine thought he was ready to come back before he had a setback on July 11.

"Every step of the rehab, you go at it with a bit of caution," Conine said.

Conine started at first base last night and hit sixth in the batting order, between Jay Gibbons and Chris Richard. Conine went 1-for-4.

"We're going to be careful with [Conine's] leg, especially early on," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He may DH [today], he may not play; it's just one of those things we'll play by ear."

To make room on the roster, the Orioles optioned utility man Howie Clark to Triple-A Rochester. Clark hit .302 in 14 games.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to actually fulfill a dream," said Clark, who played 10 years in the minors before making his big-league debut July 15. "It makes you want to get back here."

Bordick getting close

Mike Bordick, who has been out since July 15 with a fractured right kneecap, should be ready to return in less than 10 days, Hargrove said.

Bordick took batting practice and infield practice yesterday, and the Orioles still haven't decided if he'll need to go on a rehab assignment.

"From what I understand, it's just a matter of us getting him in baseball shape now," Hargrove said. "I don't think there's any time limit on it."

Cordova sits out

Hargrove's outfield candidates were reduced by one, with Marty Cordova needing to rest his sore right foot.

Cordova had played nine of the past 10 games in left field, including the artificial surfaces at Tropicana Field and SkyDome, despite a tendon injury beneath the foot. Melvin Mora started in left last night, and Richard served as the designated hitter.

"Marty's foot is really killing him. He probably went above and beyond to play last night. He needs some time off," Hargrove said.

"The turf killed him. Turf kills everything. I'd rather play on pavement."

Status quo

Hargrove doesn't seem in any hurry to revisit the spring training experiment of batting Jerry Hairston leadoff.

Hairston's average climbed to .272 in Tampa, but he remained at the bottom of the order. Mora continues to bat leadoff when he's in the lineup. Given a chance to move Hairston to second with Chris Singleton on the bench Tuesday, Hargrove chose Luis Lopez. The move paid off, with Lopez hitting a grand slam in the Orioles' 9-2 victory.

"I'll pretty much keep [Hairston] where he's at," Hargrove said. "There's something to be said for being comfortable in one spot. I'm not saying at some point in time we won't try that, but if you start changing things too soon, then everything changes. Your outlook, your approach, everything, and I'd just as soon have Jerry keep doing what he's doing right now."

O's, Shafer agree

The Orioles agreed to terms with outfielder Corey Shafer, their second-round draft pick, on a 2003 contract. Shafer, 19, batted .363 with 11 homers and 23 RBIs at Choctaw (Okla.) High School.

The club has signed 32 of its 50 selections, including 21 of its first 23.

Pitcher Adam Loewen, the Orioles' top selection out of British Columbia, remains unsigned. They will lose his rights if he attends classes at Arizona State later this month.

Around the horn

A magnetic resonance imaging test on Twins pitcher Eric Milton revealed a lateral cartilage tear in his left knee, and he'll undergo surgery today in Minnesota. The club expects him to miss four to five weeks. The former University of Maryland standout was injured while warming in the bullpen before Tuesday's game at Camden Yards. ... Orioles Hall of Fame broadcaster Chuck Thompson threw out the ceremonial first pitch on the same night the team gave away talking bobble heads in his likeness.

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