Palmeiro has MRI, won't be at Fenway

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Sore knee will keep him home until Blue Jays visit

Ponson grievance on hold

September 03, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The crowds at Fenway Park won't have Rafael Palmeiro to kick around this weekend.

The Orioles first baseman will remain in Baltimore after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging test on his sore right knee. Executive vice president Jim Beattie said the MRI didn't reveal any new damage, but Palmeiro hasn't been cleared to play. He'll rejoin the team for Monday's game against Toronto at Camden Yards.

Palmeiro is bothered by an arthritic condition that was aggravated in Toronto, causing him to miss the last two games of the series. He also has a slight strain behind the knee, and a sore right ankle that prevents him from running at full speed.

In seven games since his suspension was lifted, Palmeiro is 2-for-26 with one RBI to leave his overall average at .266. Both hits came on Aug. 16.

Palmeiro went 0-for-4 in his only game in Toronto, and he wore earplugs after his first at-bat in an attempt to block out the boos. The reception from Boston fans figured to be worse.

The Orioles have another health issue besides Palmeiro's knee. Reliever James Baldwin fainted in the restroom on the team charter Thursday night and was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital last night as a precaution.

Baldwin was taken to the emergency room and released Thursday, but doctors for the Orioles and the hospital agreed he should return for more tests.

Union waits in Ponson case

A member of the players association said nothing has changed in regard to pitcher Sidney Ponson, who was placed on unconditional release waivers by the Orioles on Thursday for the purpose of terminating his contract.

The players association is expected to file a grievance on Ponson's behalf, as it did over the winter for Colorado Rockies pitcher Denny Neagle after his arrest for solicitation of prostitution. The Orioles cited conduct that violated the terms of Ponson's Uniform Players Contract, including three arrests since December. They're trying to relieve themselves of the $10 million left on his contract, including $7.5 million next year.

No action will be taken by the players association until Ponson clears waivers. Orioles union representative Jay Gibbons is expected to contact the union.

A source said Ponson traveled to California this week.

Byrdak down, Kline steps up

Left-hander Tim Byrdak played catch yesterday to test his sore shoulder, and he'll attempt a bullpen session today before determining when he can pitch again.

The Orioles haven't used Byrdak since Sunday against the Oakland Athletics, when he allowed three runs and retired only one hitter. He also walked three, and later complained of tightness behind the shoulder.

"It kind of just locked up," said Byrdak, who's 0-1 with a 4.79 ERA in 26 games. "The biggest thing is to give medication and get everything loosened up and relieve the pressure."

With Byrdak unavailable, interim manager Sam Perlozzo must trust left-hander Steve Kline in more pressurized situations. So far, Kline hasn't let him down.

A bust for most of the season, Kline has allowed only two earned runs in his past 16 innings.

Kline entered Thursday's game in Toronto with the Orioles leading 4-3 in the sixth and the tying run on first base. He got a double play and retired all five batters he faced. Last night he retired two more.

Signed to a two-year, $5.5 million contract after four seasons in St. Louis, Kline underwent surgery in November to repair a torn tendon in his left index finger, an injury that caused him to miss the World Series. He didn't pick up a baseball until spring training.

"I guess I'm in better pitching shape now," he said. "I'm actually starting to feel my pitches. I'm staying behind my breaking ball a little bit better.

"They said my finger wouldn't be the same for about a year, but you can't make excuses. Once you take the ball, you've got to get guys out. I've done that in the past with the finger injured."

Kline is more content since Perlozzo replaced Lee Mazzilli as manager. Mazzilli removed Kline from a setup role because the reliever was struggling, but his ERA is down to 4.37.

"I'm enjoying the game again," he said. "I felt like some power [Mazzilli] quit on me in the middle of the year when he demoted me. I didn't mind getting demoted because I understand it was best for the team, but they just threw me to the back burner. Sammy's given me a second chance."

Around the horn

The Orioles activated catcher Geronimo Gil and reliever Jason Grimsley from the disabled list, and pitcher Daniel Cabrera has rejoined the team after making one injury rehab start at Double-A Bowie. ... Palmeiro homered in 93 straight months before failing to hit one in August. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third-longest streak in major league history, trailing Hank Aaron (126) and Andre Dawson (95). Jeromy Burnitz now has the longest active streak at 57.

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