Hairston avoids surgery, but DL likely


Broken finger on mend, but return is month away

Matos survives crash test

March 16, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston apparently will avoid having surgery on his right ring finger, though he's still expected to begin the season on the disabled list.

A visit to a hand specialist yesterday confirmed that the fractured knuckle is healing properly. Hairston's finger will remain in a splint until March 26, when he'll return to Baltimore for another examination.

"I passed the first test with flying colors," he said. "Hopefully, the next one will be great."

"The doctor said it looks very good," said Jim Beattie, executive vice president of baseball operations. "We're still leaning toward no surgery, but the finger has to be immobile for another 10 days. We're probably still looking at the middle to end of April before he can play."

The splint prevents Hairston from straightening the finger, but allows for some movement in the knuckle. He can begin range of motion exercises once it comes off.

Hairston was hoping to return for Opening Night, exactly one month after fracturing the knuckle while diving into third base in the first inning of the first exhibition game.

"I'm not going to rule it out," he said, "but that's kind of cutting it close."

Matos' test is game-winner

It didn't take long for Luis Matos to test his injured right leg.

Inserted into the game as the designated hitter, Matos scored from first base in the sixth inning on a two-run double down the right-field line by Jay Gibbons that gave the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Matos walked once in two plate appearances.

Third base coach Tom Trebelhorn waved around Matos even though there were no outs. Matos slid hard into catcher Henry Blanco.

"Right away they wanted to test me," said Matos, whose superficial stress fracture in his right shin was diagnosed last week.

The Orioles and Florida Marlins agreed to use a designated hitter for today's game in Jupiter, which allows Matos to start and lead off.

"It's not like I'm going to limp when I'm running. I'm just going to feel a little uncomfortable, but I'm going to play the same," he said. "Once the treatments start, it will feel a lot better."

Riley `in control'

Trying to lower his ERA and strengthen his bid for the fifth spot in the rotation, left-hander Matt Riley threw three shutout innings in his best spring outing.

Riley had allowed four earned runs in four innings before yesterday, and his six walks were an indication that he was overthrowing. Manager Lee Mazzilli would like Riley to rely less on his fastball, and more on his "devastating curveball."

"He stayed in the zone, threw strikes, got ahead," Mazzilli said. "That's what pitching's all about. He didn't have to fight himself. He was very much in control of everything."

Bautista makes rounds

Jose Bautista, the Rule 5 pick who must stay on the roster all season or be offered back to the Pittsburgh Pirates, made his first start in left field yesterday before moving to third base.

Bautista played the outfield during the winter league season, and also has some experience at second base.

"I want to see what he can do out there," Mazzilli said.

Decision time

Mazzilli met with his coaching staff before batting practice to review the roster in anticipation of making cuts later this week.

"We made a few decisions," Mazzilli said without elaborating. "We went over the roster man to man, trying to see how things are going to fit. There are guys we need to let go so they can play, but we're still talking about that."

The Orioles are hesitant to reassign too many players and leave themselves thin, with their minor league complex three hours away in Sarasota, Fla.

"But we also want to make sure the guys get enough innings to pitch. That has a bearing on when you make the cuts," Mazzilli said. "It would be an easier process if you had a facility that's across the street. You could call them right back. But it's unfair to send a player down, and a day later the kid has to drive three hours back."

O's for Canada

The Orioles have granted permission for pitchers Adam Loewen and Erik Bedard to pitch for Team Canada in the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Team officials met yesterday with Greg Hamilton, the general manager and director of Baseball Canada. Hamilton was accompanied by former Orioles general manager Pat Gillick.

"We'll allow them to play if [Team Canada] wants them on the club and if they're healthy," Beattie said.

An agreement still must be reached between Major League Baseball, the players association and the International Baseball Federation to allow Loewen and Bedard to play while on the 40-man roster and be subjected to stricter drug testing.

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