KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On a day when the Orioles got no information on the health of starting right fielder Sammy Sosa, they did get some good news on sidelined center fielder Luis Matos.
Matos, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list last week after fracturing his right ring finger while attempting to bunt in a 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on May 10, saw Dr. Mark Deitch, a hand specialist at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, on Tuesday and may be able to return in three weeks. He was originally scheduled to be out anywhere from six to eight weeks.
"The doctor looked at it and he was very happy with the way things are progressing," said Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie. "He had sensation in the tip of his finger, which they weren't expecting so soon. They were able to get the finger put back together and it's been healing."
Matos was batting .289 and was second on the team with seven stolen bases when his fingernail ripped and bent backward after getting trapped between the bat and Jesse Crain's fastball while trying to bunt. He had a minor procedure to suture the nail back the skin.
He is scheduled to have stitches in his finger taken out a week from tomorrow. It was originally feared that the injury might require surgery.
"The doctor told me that he was 85 percent sure at this point that his skin was going to heal without necessitating surgery," said Orioles head trainer Richie Bancells. "He is going to see [Matos] in another week and make another determination. He can do all the conditioning with no griping right now. At this point, [his return] is probably three weeks from now."
Meanwhile, Sosa, out since May 6 with an abscess and staph infection on the bottom of his left foot, was scheduled to see team orthopedist Charles Silberstein today and then hit off a tee at Camden Yards. However, Sosa was granted permission by the team to attend to personal matters in Florida and wasn't expected back in Baltimore until later last night.
He is now expected to be examined by team physician Andy Cosgarea this afternoon. He needs to get clearance by team doctors before he can begin hitting again.
There is very little chance that Sosa will be back in the Orioles' lineup for this weekend's series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He feels fine," said Beattie, who did receive a call from Sosa to tell him he was unable to make the appointment yesterday. "There was a bunch of personal reasons it didn't work out today. It's not a setback if he checks out fine today. We expect him to be OK."
Asked if the postponed appointment had anything to do with Sosa's health, Adam Katz, the right fielder's agent, said yesterday, "I don't believe so. He's fine. He's doing very well."
The Orioles were without their entire Opening Day outfield for a fifth straight game as Larry Bigbie sat out again with a strained hamstring. Manager Lee Mazzilli said Bigbie, who hasn't played since last Thursday's series opener in Chicago, was in the original starting lineup, but he opted to hold him out because of the rain in the forecast. Bigbie will likely start today.
With the injury-depleted outfield, Beattie said yesterday that the Orioles are considering different trade options, but have no sense of urgency to make a deal.
"We're always out there exploring what options there are," Beattie said. "You want to be as deep as you can. But we're certainly in no kind of panic mode, where we feel like we had to do something."
Lopez looks to change up
Starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez has a superstition in which he won't talk about his upcoming start, so the right-hander had little to say about today's starting assignment in which he'll oppose Kansas City's Runelvys Hernandez.
But Lopez didn't shy away from discussions about his past two starts, both of which resulted in team losses. In his past two starts against Kansas City and Chicago, the Orioles' No. 1 starter allowed nine earned runs and 16 hits in 10 1/3 innings.
Lopez, who is 2-1 with a 4.47 ERA, attributed his struggles to throwing too many two-seam and cut fastballs, and getting away from his changeup.
"I didn't use changeups enough to get batters off balance," Lopez said. "That's my game plan. I tried to do things different, which is not my plan. I have to go back to the way I was in the beginning, using more off-speed pitches. It's a long season, but things need to change."
Sun staff writer Dan Connolly contributed to this article.
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Site, time: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo., 2:10 p.m.
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (2-1, 4.47) vs. Royals' Runelvys Hernandez (2-5, 4.82)