Milton looks to regain midseason form today

Former Terrapins pitcher was on roll before injury

Athletics-Twins notebook

Baseball

October 05, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - University of Maryland alum Eric Milton heads into his Game 4 start for the Minnesota Twins today hoping he'll have the touch he had shortly before injuring his left knee at Camden Yards two months ago.

Milton looked more like a Game 1 starter leading up to Aug. 7, when he was scheduled to pitch against the Orioles but tore cartilage in his knee while throwing his warm-up pitches in the bullpen.

He was scratched from that start, underwent surgery and missed nearly four weeks before returning to the mound Sept. 2. With the postseason looming, Milton slowly built up his pitch count, but it was a bit like spring training for him again.

He threw three innings, then four, then got roughed up for nine earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on Sept. 13 at Cleveland. The Twins were holding their breath at that point, but Milton allowed just one earned run over his final 11 2/3 innings, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gave him the fourth and final spot in the postseason rotation.

"Before he got hurt, he was rolling pretty good," Gardenhire said. "This is very important for Eric and our baseball team. We wanted a left-hander in the rotation, and he has worked very hard to get that ball, and I have a lot of confidence in him."

Milton finished the season 13-9 with a 4.84 ERA, but those numbers suffered after he was injured. He went 0-2 in his final five starts.

"My last two starts, I have been feeling really good," Milton said. "I am kind of glad [the injury] happened when it did and not later in the season, so I had time to come back in September and get a few starts under my belt and get back on track."

Trouble seeing

The Oakland Athletics knew they would have a tough time catching fly balls in the Metrodome, and their fears were confirmed immediately yesterday.

Jacque Jones led off the Twins' half of the first inning with a pop fly that landed in fair territory and then rolled foul, just short of first base. A's first baseman Scott Hatteberg misplayed the ball by several feet.

Jones struck out, but the Twins caught another break the next inning, when A's second baseman Mark Ellis collided with Hatteberg, allowing Torii Hunter to reach on an error.

"It's amazing how hard it is to see. The background is the same color as a baseball," Hatteberg said.

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