Hip soreness casts Duchscherer's regular-season readiness into further doubt

Orioles starter scratched from simulated game, will have MRI

March 13, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — Justin Duchscherer couldn't throw in a scheduled simulated game Sunday because of recurring hip soreness, making it even more likely that he won't be part of the Orioles' Opening Day rotation.

Duchscherer cut short his warm-up session before the outing and told team officials he didn't feel well enough to pitch. He's scheduled to have an MRI within the next couple of days, possibly Tuesday.

"I don't know where we're at," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "[Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells] said that he just felt some discomfort and wants to get it looked at. He doesn't feel good about where it's at."

Duchscherer, the oft-injured starter whom the Orioles signed to an incentive-laden $700,000 deal that grows to $1.1 million if he's on the Opening Day roster, has made just one appearance this spring, pitching two scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.

He said after the game that his hip felt fine, but acknowledged that he hadn't gotten over the mental hurdle of pitching through all the injuries. He also acknowledged that the way he felt in the days after the start was going to be just as important as the way he felt on the mound in Clearwater.

The early reports were good, but Sunday's events are a significant setback. Asked whether there is enough time remaining in spring training for Duchscherer to get ready for the regular season, Showalter said: "It's going to be tough. I just don't have enough information to know what he's dealing with."

Duchscherer, 33, has had three surgeries on his hips. The most recent one was June 7 to correct an impingement in his left hip.

Juggling the rotation

With Duchscherer looking unlikely for the Opening Day roster, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and Ryan Drese emerge as the three main competitors for the final spot in the rotation behind Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesen.

However, the Orioles also have the option of going without a fifth starter, at least for the first week and a half of the season. Because of a day off April 5, the Orioles won't need a fifth starter until April 10. That could give Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor a little more flexibility in assembling their full staff.

"We haven't nailed down exactly how we're going to do it during the season," Showalter said. "We can stay in turn. It just depends on the construction of the club and our options, but that fifth starter there kind of moves around a little bit."

Rupe making statement

Right-hander Josh Rupe wasn't given much of a chance to make the Orioles' Opening Day roster when spring training started about four weeks ago. However, he's at least giving the club something to consider.

In a 9-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Rupe was the only Orioles pitcher to have much success, turning in 22/3 perfect innings on an otherwise tough afternoon for the home team. The Tigers had 17 hits and scored in six of the first seven innings.

"Rupe threw the ball real well," Showalter said. "You watch a game like this, and I think he got eight outs on 17 pitches. Go figure. It was a strange game."

This spring, Rupe has allowed two unearned runs and just four hits in 82/3 innings. He has walked two and struck out two.

The 28-year-old has made 80 career big league relief appearances, most coming with the Texas Rangers from 2005 to 2009. He appeared in 11 games for the Kansas City Royals in 2010, allowing six runs and 14 hits in 92/3 innings.

"He was very much on our radar screen," Showalter said. "That's the reason why we've worked to get him in there. He can sink the baseball and stay off the sweet part of the bat. He's a guy that can get multiple [batters] with one pitch. That's hard to find."

Around the horn

Reliever Koji Uehara, who has pitched in just one exhibition game and has been sidelined since getting a cortisone shot March 3, will throw a bullpen session Monday. … Michael Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, Clay Rapada, Mark Hendrickson and Adrian Rosario pitched in the simulated game. Gonzalez and Johnson both threw two innings as Showalter continues to try to stretch them out so they're not exclusively one-inning pitchers. … Veteran first baseman Derrek Lee (sore right wrist) is scheduled to hit off a tee Monday. … Showalter said team officials have an idea what is causing Brian Roberts' back pain, but the manager didn't want to say anything until the second baseman undergoes an MRI on Monday. However, he did acknowledge that Roberts has been feeling a bit better. … First base prospect Joe Mahoney (hamstring soreness) didn't play in Sunday's game because of hamstring soreness. … Arrieta will make his third exhibition start Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium. Jeremy Accardo and Jason Berken are also scheduled to pitch for the Orioles; Kevin Correia will start for the Pirates.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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