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Grateful Hendricks returns to clubhouse for warm welcome

First, Steve Reed came over and put Elrod Hendricks in a bearhug. SteveKline did the same moments later. Jay Gibbons was next and then Miguel Tejadawalked across the clubhouse to Hendricks' locker and gave the Orioles'longtime bullpen coach a firm pat on the back.

Nearly three weeks after suffering a minor stroke, which he admitted hadhim scared and feeling he "was not going to make it," Hendricks returned tothe Orioles' clubhouse and put on the jersey he has worn for 37 years.

"It was a good feeling," Hendricks said of being back with the Orioles forthe first time since April 14, when he had the stroke while the Orioles wereplaying against Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"I missed it enough where I don't know what it's going to be like inretirement, but I know that I am not going to like it. I watched the gamesevery night. I was like an addict. At a quarter to 7, I'd check my watch tosee what time it was, and then at 7 o'clock, I'd turn on the TV andconcentrate on the game. I got into the game as if I was coaching."

Hendricks, 64, wore his trademark grin throughout a 12-minute talk with themedia in the dugout before yesterday's series finale with the Toronto BlueJays. He was 20 pounds lighter, the only visible effect of the stroke,although he said "my mind is still working faster than my mouth."

After getting permission from his doctors to return to the team and totravel with the Orioles when they go on the road, Hendricks will officiallyresume his duties as bullpen coach in tomorrow's series opener with the KansasCity Royals. Yesterday, he just returned to speak to the media and get the"feel back of the clubhouse."

"The guys in the clubhouse and on staff are really glad to see him," saidOrioles manager Lee Mazzilli, who jokingly reminded Hendricks that the Orioleswon eight straight at one point while he was gone. "He'll be here a long timeafter we're all gone. He's a special person to all of us."

Steve McCatty, who has served as bullpen coach in Hendricks' absence, willreturn to Triple-A Ottawa, where he is the pitching coach.

Hendricks began his talk with reporters by reeling off several people whomhe wanted to thank. Among those were Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, whochartered a plane to return Hendricks to Baltimore six days after he washospitalized; Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan, who was on the plane topick him up; and several current and former teammates, like Brooks and FrankRobinson, Boog Powell and Earl Weaver, who provided almost daily phone calls.

Hendricks said he was especially motivated by a phone call from formerteammate Moe Drabowsky, who has cancer.

"He's been going through a great ordeal for the last four, five years andhere I am, three, four weeks prior to this and I am trying to cheer him up,"said Hendricks. "And here he is on the phone, telling me, `Hey, you are goingto be fine.'"

However, Hendricks saved his biggest thanks for Orioles head trainer RichieBancells, who noticed symptoms of a stroke when Hendricks went to the trainingroom after the final game against the Devil Rays and quickly rushed him to alocal hospital. During the ninth inning in the bullpen, Hendricks said hecouldn't communicate that he needed help.

He also said he wanted to join the Orioles on their flight back toBaltimore, but his instincts told him to go see Bancells.

"Richie probably single-handedly saved my life," said Hendricks. "I amindebted to him. He got me [to the hospital] in the nick of time.

"I just thought when I was in the hospital, how many people have diedbecause they didn't get to the hospital on time. ... How lucky I was that Igot there in time and got the right treatment."

Pitcher on way out?

Mazzilli said he has had discussions with executive vice president JimBeattie and Flanagan about dropping from 12 to 11 pitchers, but no decisionhas been made. Reliever Rick Bauer has not pitched since April 20 and leftyJohn Parrish pitched Monday night for the first time since April 20.

"We talk about things every day, what we want to do," said Mazzilli. "Everyday, Jim, Mike and I speak about how you want to tweak a team up, whether it'sadding or subtracting players. That's just an everyday occurrence, but I don'tknow what it's going to lead to yet."

Frankly speaking

Rafael Palmeiro's second-inning single yesterday was his 2,942nd hit, tyingFrank Robinson for 28th place on baseball's all-time hit list.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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