Hendricks confronts fears at stroke site

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Return to Tampa Bay time of reflection for coach after April `wake-up call'

Orioles

July 25, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - He started thinking about the impending trip to Tropicana Field early last week while the Orioles were in Minnesota. The thoughts brought back enough bad memories that Elrod Hendricks had trouble sleeping at night.

The last time the Orioles were here to play the Devil Rays, Hendricks, the team's longtime bullpen coach who has worn an Orioles jersey for 37 years, suffered a mild stroke April 14. So the first order of business in his return to Tropicana Field on Friday was to get dressed and head right out to the field.

"I made sure I came out early and went out to the scene of the crime," Hendricks said. "I thought I'd be a little more nervous about coming here, but once we got in the area, I saw a couple of ambulances down there by the hospital and said, `It's not that bad.' Those people in the ambulances probably have it worse than I had it, so right away I started feeling better about myself."

Hendricks, 64, said he is feeling much better these days and that the stroke changed his outlook on life.

"If there is such a thing as 200 percent better, then that's how I feel," he said. "We take life for granted, the breath of air that will be always be here. When you haven't been sick and this happens, it's a wake-up call."

Hendricks wanted to be on the team's flight back to Baltimore that night, but his instincts told him to see Orioles trainer Richie Bancells, who recognized symptoms of a stroke and rushed him to a local hospital. Hendricks, who credits Bancells for "single-handedly saving my life," was in St. Anthony's Hospital for about a week before Orioles owner Peter Angelos chartered a plane that brought him back to Baltimore.

In town over the weekend, Hendricks made an appearance on behalf of the American Heart Association. He also was visited by several St. Anthony's employees, who razzed Hendricks for being in the hospital under an alias. That was the organization's decision to limit calls and visits for one of the most beloved all-time Orioles.

"I told them that I didn't even know my own name then," Hendricks joked.

J. Lopez back tonight

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said catcher Javy Lopez, who finished his injury rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Bowie, will be behind the plate tonight for the opener of the four-game Texas series.

Lopez hasn't played since May 24 after getting hit by a foul tip that broke a bone in his right hand. Entering yesterday, he was 6-for-11 with a double, three RBIs and three strikeouts in three games with the Baysox.

"He'll be ready to go [tonight]," Mazzilli said. "What he's hitting is irrelevant to me. If he's swinging the bat well and hitting the balls hard, that's fine."

The Orioles likely will option Eli Whiteside back to Triple-A Ottawa today and Sal Fasano will serve as Lopez's backup.

Tejadas await Corvette

This week Miguel Tejada is expecting to receive the Corvette that he was rewarded after being voted the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. The Orioles shortstop is planning on giving the keys to the car to his wife, Alesandra, who apparently has grown tired of waiting.

"She is excited," Tejada said last week. "She calls every day and says, `When's the car coming? When's the car coming?'

"I told her we have three better cars than that one. But she keeps asking me, `Where's the car? Where's the car?' "

X-rays negative on Chen

Orioles starter Bruce Chen had X-rays on his left shin Saturday, but they were negative. Chen was hit by a hard grounder off the bat of Carl Crawford in Friday's series opener.

He has been limping around the clubhouse and unable to do any physical activities, though Mazzilli doesn't expect him to miss Wednesday's scheduled start.

"You just have to go day-to-day," Bancells said. "It's a bad contusion. It's just a matter of moving the swelling down there. I think it will improve a great deal in a day or two."

In other injury news, Jay Gibbons sat out a second consecutive game but was available to pinch hit yesterday. He hasn't played since tweaking his back in Friday's series opener.

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