For Hentgen, one more rehab start before rejoining O's

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher's latest outing on Tuesday pleased club

Notebook

August 29, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - Pat Hentgen will make one more start at Rookie-level Aberdeen on Sunday before rejoining the Orioles' roster, as club officials were pleased with his latest rehabilitation start Tuesday for Double-A Bowie.

Hentgen, who is making his way back from ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow, threw 91 pitches and hit 89 mph on the radar gun. He held Reading to two runs, one earned, in six innings and received a no-decision.

"I felt stronger than I did in my last outing," Hentgen said. "I think I am ready to go back [to Baltimore], but I will do whatever the Orioles tell me to do. Their rehab programs have worked well in the past."

Hentgen's situation points to how important this September is for the Orioles and what they would be missing if the players go on strike tomorrow. The Orioles need to decide whether to pick up the option year on Hentgen's contract or let him become a free agent.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he hasn't decided whether he will use Hentgen as a starter or reliever when the pitcher returns. But Hentgen's pitch count is high enough to start, and it's a safe bet he'll make a few starts as long as there are games to be played.

"For a veteran player like that, I think September's really important," Hargrove said. "Not for the successes or failures he might have, but as far as being competitive and being in competitive situations. I think being able to bring Scotty Erickson back last year in September [from the same surgery] would have been a huge bonus for Scott."

Loewen decision coming

Adam Loewen, the Orioles' first-round draft pick, has notified the team he will begin classes at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., if the two sides can't agree to a signing bonus by tomorrow.

The two sides remain far apart. The Orioles still haven't moved from their original $2 million offer, and though they have made it known they might be willing to move to $2.5 million, Loewen is believed to be seeking at least $3.9 million.

Loewen, a left-handed pitcher out of Surrey, British Columbia, was the fourth overall pick in the draft and was widely considered the best high school pitcher available. Once Loewen attends a class, the Orioles won't be able to negotiate with him until a brief period before next year's draft.

Ponson to return Sunday

Sidney Ponson, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 9 with right shoulder tendinitis, is expected to rejoin the roster on Sunday.

Ponson has had two throwing sessions off a practice mound and is expected to pitch live batting practice today. If all goes well, he will be available to pitch in relief Sunday.

"I'm probably going to pitch two or three times out of the bullpen," Ponson said. "That's fine; I just want to help this team any way I can. My arm's been feeling good for about two weeks."

Meal money distribution

The Orioles handed out meal money for only half of this two-city, six-game road trip, figuring there could be a strike tomorrow. The players and staff receive $73.50 a day in meal money, and each player and staff member will receive the additional $222.50 as long as there are games played beginning tomorrow in Anaheim, Calif.

Big month for Douglass

Orioles rookie Sean Douglass understands the union's stance, but a lengthy strike could wipe out an important September for him. Douglass is 0-1 with a 7.41 ERA in four starts this season, and his best chance to make a better impression would come after the rosters expand Sunday.

"September is very important for anybody who's trying to make the team for next year," Douglass said.

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