Williamson pushes up timetable


Injured righthander Mark Williamson was in uniform before last night's game and is optimistic that he can beat the projected timetable for his return from arthroscopic elbow surgery.

Williamson had several bone chips removed from his right elbow seven days ago in Birmingham, Ala. He will not pick up a baseball for at least three weeks, and his doctors predicted it would be about 10 weeks before he will be back in playing shape. But Williamson said yesterday he hopes to be back in the Orioles bullpen by the All-Star break.

That would be a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, but Williamson said there is good reason to believe he will not have to rush himself to be ready that soon.

"The thing is, there was no tissue damage -- no ligament or muscle damage," he said. "Dr. [James] Andrews checked out the ulnar collateral ligament before he did the surgery. He didn't find anything wrong. No fraying. Nothing."

The day after the operation, Williamson began his rehabilitation program with light weight work. He was able to shag some balls before yesterday's game, but will not be able to toss them back until about mid-June.

* POOLE UPDATE: Lefthander Jim Poole threw off the mound again before last night's game and reported no problems. He'll throw at least once more at Camden Yards before a decision is made on when and where to send him on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

"He'll probably throw on Friday," said manager Johnny Oates. "When we go to the West Coast [Monday], he'll probably go on rehab, but we'll wait and see how he feels after today."

There is no timetable for Poole's return from the disabled list. If he is one week away from leaving on a rehabilitation assignment, he has to be at least two weeks away from pitching at the major-league level.

* HULETT ON A TEAR: Utility man Tim Hulett has been the hottest hitter on the club, going 11-for-16 during his past six games to raise his average to a team-leading .380.

The big question is this: How does he manage to make such hard contact when he doesn't even know when he's going to be in the lineup?

"I'm comfortable with what I'm doing," Hulett said. "I've been going up there with a very simple approach. See the ball and hit it. I'm not letting it get too complicated, which I have a tendency to do."

But isn't there tremendous pressure to produce when you're only in the lineup every three or four days?

"I don't look at it that way at all," he said. "They aren't expecting me to carry the team. When I'm in there, they're expecting a solid game from me. If I play solid defense, the offense is a bonus. I'm in there to do the little things. That's a lot easier than needing to hit a three-run home run."

* CANSECO RETURNS: Jose Canseco was in Oakland's lineup last night, one day after bruising his knee after crashing into the wall at Yankee Stadium. Canseco was injured chasing a triple by New York's Pat Kelly. His knee found an unpadded gap in the wall and sent a shiver through the Athletics organization.

The club has managed to overcome a long list of injuries this year, but no one wanted to think about the possibility of losing Canseco. Fortunately for the A's, X-rays revealed nothing unusual, and Canseco was healthy enough to be the designated hitter last night. He went 1-for-4, scoring a run and driving one in.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY: Someone asked Oates whether anyone in the Oakland lineup could scare him after what Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas has done to the Orioles this year.

"Frank Thomas doesn't scare us anymore," Oates said, "not for a couple of months anyway."

* MORE TACKETT: Reserve catcher Jeff Tackett has appeared in just four games this year, but Oates said yesterday he'll get more playing time as soon as the Orioles get fewer days off.

"We've averaged an off day a week," Oates said. "I've talked to Jeff. I told him in Chicago that Chris [Hoiles] will play a lot the rest of the month, but when we get to playing 13 or 14 games in a row, he'll [Tackett] catch more."

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