Bechler treated for heat exhaustion

Orioles notebook

2 players say pitcher, 23, collapsed during run in hot, humid weather

February 17, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Orioles received a scare during yesterday's spring training workout when pitcher Steve Bechler was overcome by the heat while running and left the stadium by ambulance.

Bechler, 23, was taken into the clubhouse on a cart, with assistant trainer Brian Ebel gripping his jersey to keep him steady. He lay on the trainer's table with his legs elevated and began shaking before paramedics arrived.

A third-round draft pick in 1998, Bechler entered the clubhouse at 11:35 a.m. and remained on the premises until being wheeled out on a stretcher at 12:12 p.m. By then, two Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue vehicles had pulled into the parking lot. Bechler wore an oxygen mask, his eyes partially closed, and received intravenous fluids.

While snow blanketed the East Coast yesterday, temperatures here in the early afternoon reached 81 degrees with 70 percent humidity.

The initial diagnosis on Bechler was heat exhaustion and dehydration, and club officials were awaiting an update on his condition. Bechler was staying overnight for observation in a local hospital, the team said.

"Steve was probably half to 60 percent of the way through it when we noticed he was a little white-faced and leaning up against the fence between reps, which is not unusual when guys get tired," said manager Mike Hargrove. "I had Brian Ebel go over and check him, and Steve sat down. I said, `Let's get him out of this,' and called for some PowerAde to be brought out, and we put him on a cart and called the paramedics.

"They cooled him off, took his blood pressure and gave him fluids, but as he laid there he got worse. It scares the hell out of you."

Two players said they saw Bechler collapse in the grass as he attempted to complete the run. He looked pale and dazed as he sat in the cart.

"He was really, really incoherent," said pitcher Matt Riley. "He was finishing the run and fell down. It doesn't look too good. It's really humid out there, and it's hard to stay hydrated. I just hope he's all right."

The Orioles coaching staff has divided the daily workouts into 12-minute stations, with water breaks in between. Players are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids, especially since Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer died from heatstroke during the 2001 training camp.

"There's plenty of water out there. Everybody stops to get some after every session," Hargrove said. "We have very competent medical people, and they were on top of it from the get-go, so I don't see how anything could have been done differently to keep this from happening."

Bechler arrived at camp Wednesday heavier than his listed weight of 239, and one coach questioned the amount of hours the right-hander devoted to getting in shape. He labored to complete Friday's run, which concluded the approximately three-hour workout, and was pulled off the field by Hargrove before finishing Saturday.

"That was more of a disciplinary thing than anything when we took him out," Hargrove said.

Asked to describe Bechler's conditioning, Hargrove said, "Not good."

"Back 20 or 25 years ago, everybody came into camp to get in shape, but that's not the game anymore. You come into camp in shape or you're behind. The conditioning we're doing, especially the first week, is nothing out of the ordinary."

Bechler appeared in three games for the Orioles last season and was 6-11 with a 4.09 ERA at Triple-A Rochester. He is expected to begin this season with the Orioles' new Triple-A affiliate in Ottawa.

Versatile Conine plans first

Jeff Conine's locker includes three different gloves: one for playing first base, one for third base and one for the outfield. Never funneled into one position at spring training since joining the Orioles, Conine said this year could be different.

He'll take fly balls in the outfield and grounders at third, just to stay ready, but Conine expects to be the first baseman on Opening Day. The Orioles again have penciled in David Segui as the designated hitter, hoping to keep him healthy by limiting his time on the field, and the roster is stocked with outfielders.

"It's nice as far as my comfort level goes," Conine said. "I'm probably more mentally prepared for first than anywhere else, but I'll still get my work in other places, too."

Plenty of catchers

The Orioles are at full strength behind the plate with Geronimo Gil's arrival yesterday. He joined Brook Fordyce, Izzy Molina, Carlos Mendez, Eli Whiteside and Steve Lomasney as camp catchers.

Gil was late reporting to camp so that he could stay in Mexico to be with his mother, who was hospitalized for three days.

Gil and Fordyce were the primary catchers last season, with Molina appearing in one game before returning to the minors. Whiteside is regarded as the organization's top catching prospect and finished last season at Double-A Bowie. Lomasney and Mendez, a career .300 hitter in 3,884 minor league at-bats, signed as free agents.

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