O's have SARS fears before June visit to Toronto

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Bancells to get information from MLB medical adviser

Orioles

April 27, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles trainer Richie Bancells will participate in a conference call tomorrow with Elliot Pellman, Major League Baseball's medical adviser, who will provide information and take questions related to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Bancells will pass along what he has heard to the team.

He'll have a captive audience.

The Orioles don't visit SkyDome until June 23, but some players already are taking precautions and pushing to learn more about the disease.

The World Health Organization already has warned against traveling to Toronto. Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said opposing teams worried about going there are "overreacting."

"Anytime you have people dying from something," said outfielder Larry Bigbie, "I don't think you can ever overreact."

Bigbie had a 90-minute layoff in Toronto on Thursday after being recalled from Triple-A Ottawa.

"I didn't even think about it until our trainer said something about me having to stop in Toronto. But I didn't notice anything different there. I didn't see anyone wearing masks or anything like that," he said.

"So many people are talking about it, but we really don't know much about it. We're not educated about it. We don't go there for a while, so hopefully they can get it all cleared up."

Bigbie said he'll discourage family members and friends from joining him on the trip.

"I don't have a choice. I have to go," he said. "But I have two younger sisters, so I definitely don't want them to get exposed to something like that."

Pat Hentgen, who pitched in Toronto for nine seasons, said he's apprehensive about making the trip.

"It's definitely an issue that's been reappearing in the clubhouses around the league. It's a serious matter and we're hoping that things can get resolved as soon as possible," he said.

"I'm sure that players in Toronto who are there all the time are definitely concerned. Why wouldn't you be?"

More than 250 probable or suspected SARS cases have been reported in the Toronto area, with 19 deaths so far.

Players are being advised to avoid public places, which presents a unique set of problems considering the games tend to draw crowds. And SkyDome isn't like most ballparks because of its restaurants and hotel.

"It's like a mall with a baseball field in the middle," Hentgen said.

"I think everybody's just got their fingers crossed that they'll find a resolution or a cure."

Hentgen took comfort in Godfrey's assurances that the city was safe. "I know that Mr. Godfrey is probably as educated as anyone on that disease. If he says that, then I believe him."

Third baseman Tony Batista, who spent parts of three seasons with the Blue Jays, is placing his trust in a higher authority.

"I'm not afraid of that. I rely on Jesus Christ. He's the one who's going to take care of me," Batista said.

"We're all teammates here. If the team's going, I've got to go. It's my job. It's my responsibility."

Hairston, Ryan updates

Jerry Hairston returned to the lineup last night after missing two games and pinch-hitting in a third while recovering from a sprained left ankle. He returned to the leadoff spot occupied by Melvin Mora during his absence.

Mora was 4-for-8 with a homer, four walks and four runs scored while batting first. He moved to second in the order last night and replaced Gary Matthews in center field.

Hairston had been batting .409 (9-for-22) in his past seven games before going 2-for-5 last night.

B.J. Ryan, meanwhile, allowed his first run last night in his 12th appearance. He had thrown 8 2/3 scoreless innings.

Interesting starters

Relievers Mariano Rivera and John Rocker provided an interesting matchup yesterday at the New York Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. They got to be starters for an afternoon while preparing for their eventual returns to the majors.

Rivera, the Yankees' closer who is rehabbing his right shoulder, threw seven of his nine pitches for strikes while retiring the side in the first inning. He expects to rejoin the team Tuesday.

Rocker, the left-hander who signed a minor league deal with the Devil Rays, countered with two perfect innings.

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