Orioles pitcher Brandon Erbe working to return from shoulder surgery

Former McDonogh standout hopes he'll 'be good about halfway through the year'

March 06, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While other Orioles pitchers head to different fields to throw bullpen sessions or work on their fielding and pickoff moves, Brandon Erbe stays off to the side and plays catch with an athletic trainer.

It is a tedious and, at times, frustrating routine for the pitcher, but it's also a necessary one if the former McDonogh standout hopes to rebound from shoulder surgery and get to the big leagues.

"It's tough because you want to get back as soon as possible," said Erbe, a 23-year-old right-hander who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in mid-August. "It's not fun sitting here and watching the other players get to do everything while you're kind of sidelined. You just have to keep everything in your sights and understand that once you get better, you'll be able to do things hopefully better than before the surgery. It requires a lot of patience."

Erbe, once considered one of the organization's top pitching prospects, went 0-10 with a 5.73 ERA in 14 starts at Triple-A Norfolk in 2010. He refused to use injuries as an excuse for his struggles.

"Even though I was dealing with injuries, you still have that competitive part of you that still thinks that you can do what you've been doing your whole life," he said. "A lot of guys play through pain, and a lot of guys play through injuries. Last year was a tough year. There is no way to sugarcoat it. I just didn't pitch well. But especially after I had the surgery, I can totally start over. I can relearn everything. I can use this to get everything corrected so when I am back healthy, I'll have a whole new basis to pitching, mechanics and everything. This is kind of good because it's like a clean start.

Erbe has been throwing from flat ground and long tossing every other day to strengthen his shoulder. He should graduate to throwing off the mound soon. He's not holding a target date for his return to game actions, though he's hoping he'll "be good about halfway through the year."

Lee not ready, not worried

First baseman Derrek Lee hit soft toss Sunday, but he won't get into his first Grapefruit League game until Wednesday at the earliest, according to manager Buck Showalter. Lee has been experiencing "general soreness" in his right wrist that he says was caused by all the activity he was doing to come back from offseason surgery on his thumb.

"It isn't the pain; it's the rehab process," Lee said. "I'm not going to fight through the soreness during the rehab process. I want to get it to 100 percent before I go out there so there's nothing lingering."

Lee, who had thumb surgery in November, was originally scheduled to make his Orioles debut Saturday, but that plan was scuttled when he started experiencing the wrist soreness. He's reluctant to offer another target date for his return. However, he said he likely wouldn't be ready for either of Monday's split-squad games.

"I'll never be worried," Lee said. "Obviously, you want to be in the games now, but I'm not worried. As long as I'm able to run out there on Opening Day, I'll be happy."

Pitchers set for Tuesday

Justin Duchscherer and Brian Matusz both felt good after their throwing sessions Saturday and are on track to pitch Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

Showalter said Duchscherer will start because he doesn't want the pitcher, who had another hip surgery last year, to be sitting around for too long before getting a chance to pitch. It will be Duchscherer's Grapefruit League debut. Showalter said that in a perfect world, Duchscherer would pitch two innings.

For Matusz, it will be his first outing since getting a wart removed from the middle finger of his pitching hand Friday. The left-hander was originally expected to miss a start.

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