Julio's arm gets a thumbs up as pitcher passes his physical

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Closer doesn't hold back in first spring workout

Baseball

February 22, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles closer Jorge Julio passed his physical yesterday and took the field with the other pitchers for the first official workout of spring training.

If the team is on crisis alert, it could relax for one day.

Julio was shut down during the Venezuelan Winter League season because of inflammation and weakness in his right shoulder. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test in Baltimore and was told he had tendinitis, which required treatments and exercises for three weeks with head trainer Richie Bancells.

According to Julio, he has done some long-tossing in Venezuela and threw in the bullpen for eight minutes Wednesday before reporting to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"I feel good right now," he said.

Manager Lee Mazzilli had to agree after watching Julio unleash fastballs during the workout.

"Julio looked great out there," he said. "It looked like he was throwing 95 mph. It was encouraging to know his arm was bothering him a couple months ago, but the way he was throwing now, it isn't bothering him anymore."

After accumulating 61 2/3 innings for the Orioles in 2003, Julio was limited to 9 1/3 with La Guaira Tiburones before returning to Baltimore. He was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA and four saves, allowing seven hits, walking four and striking out six. Opponents batted .219 against him.

The Orioles scheduled an appointment with their physician, Dr. Charles Silberstein, after Julio complained about his arm.

"I never felt like that before," he said. "The doctor of my team in Venezuela said it's no big deal, no problem. After Baltimore called me to come to the U.S. to check my shoulder, the doctor there said it was no big deal."

Julio is the second pitcher in club history with 25 or more saves in his first two full major league seasons. Gregg Olson was the first. The Orioles signed Mike DeJean to fill the right-handed setup role and assist as closer, and his responsibilities would grow if Julio's tendinitis returns.

Loewen takes it all in

As he roamed the clubhouse yesterday, Adam Loewen was torn between being a pitcher in a major league camp and a kid on vacation.

The fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft, Loewen took his physical and soaked up an atmosphere that most 19-year-olds never experience.

"I just want to take in what the veteran guys have to say," he said. "Just watch how they play and sit around and be one of the guys and have a lot of fun. I'm a fan of the game, too. This is my dream to be here. I'm just taking it all in as a fan of the game would."

After signing in May 2003, Loewen made his professional debut with short-season Aberdeen and went 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in seven starts. He struck out 25 in 23 1/3 innings.

Loewen's contract includes a clause that guarantees him a place on the Orioles' Opening Day roster by 2007 or he must be placed on waivers. It shouldn't take him that long.

"I know I'm not going to make the starting rotation this year," he said, "but I can sure get ready for next season."

Loewen took about three months off after the Orioles shut him down at Aberdeen as a precaution against injury. He's been working out for the last 2 1/2 months, with time spent at a high-intensity all-sports training facility in Sarasota, Fla.

"I'm in pretty good shape," he said.

Loewen already throws two plus pitches - a fastball and looping curve - and is trying to refine a third one. He hopes to end the summer at Double-A Bowie, though he might have to settle for Single-A Frederick.

"I just want to have a good, solid season," he said, "and show them I'm healthy and I can handle a full season in baseball."

Cordova, Mora are early

Outfielder Marty Cordova was an early arrival to camp, beating most of the other position players who aren't required to report until Wednesday. He toasted a bagel and sorted through his mail, hopeful that his activities will increase in intensity and importance.

Cordova appeared in only nine games last season before undergoing ligament-replacement surgery in his right elbow Aug. 27. He's unsure whether he'll be ready by Opening Day, but he hasn't dismissed the possibility. He has done some light throwing, but nothing that would give him a clearer reading of his recovery.

"It's getting better," he said.

Melvin Mora, expected to start at third base this season, also reported early. Told he wasn't supposed to be here, Mora looked around the clubhouse and said, "Really? Isn't this the Baltimore Orioles?"

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