Orioles right fielder Joe Orsulak, who sprained his left thumb attempting a diving catch eight days ago in Kansas City, Mo., was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday to make room for spot starter Richie Lewis.
Orsulak had hoped to be back in action by now, but the ligament damage was severe enough to warrant an extended period of inactivity. He is eligible to return Aug. 31, but likely will rejoin the roster after it expands to a 40-man limit Sept. 1.
"It's still sore," manager Johnny Oates said. "He can't grip the ball. He can't throw. And it's been seven days already."
Orsulak felt that the thumb was improving enough for him to avoid the DL, but the area became inflamed again when he tried to take batting practice a few days ago. Still, he refused to curse his bad fortune or complain about the Royals Stadium artificial turf that contributed to the injury.
"The timing is bad," Orsulak said, "but actually, I've been pretty lucky since I've been here. I've had one injury in five years and I've dived for a lot of balls over that time."
The injury was a significant setback for Orsulak and the team, which lost its leading hitter (.307) and one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the previous six weeks.
Lewis, who was recalled to start last night's game against the Oakland Athletics, could be headed back to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, though Oates is thinking about finishing the month with an 11-man pitching staff.
The Orioles called up Lewis three weeks ago to make a spot
start in Boston and sent him back afterward. It would seem logical to do that again, since the club could make use of the roster spot to bring up a rested pitcher or an extra outfielder rather than let Lewis occupy the spot for three days while his arm rebounds from the starting assignment.
There had been speculation that highly touted pitching prospect Brad Pennington might show up at the big-league level soon, but his rapid rise through the organization has been slowed by recent erratic performances. The other possibility is right-hander Anthony Telford, who has pitched decently at Triple-A and has major-league experience.
Williamson sore again
It appeared that Mark Williamson was close to returning, but he has suffered a setback in his recovery from elbow surgery and faces the possibility of not pitching competitively again this year.
Williamson said he might visit orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., if soreness around his elbow continues.
"It's a little frustrating," said Williamson. "I was throwing almost every day without any problem and now this. It's not in the same area as the surgery, but I talked to him [Andrews] on the phone and he said that if it hurts, don't throw."
McGwire might miss month
Major-league home run leader Mark McGwire appears headed for the disabled list after suffering a strained muscle in his right side Fri
Oakland manager Tony La Russa indicated yesterday that McGwire will be sidelined at least two weeks and perhaps as much as a month.
"If he's lucky, it will be two weeks," La Russa said. "It could be three, and if he gets a bad break it could be a month."
This is another major blow to the A's, who have used the disabled list 19 times this season, but the A's have overcome a lot to take over the AL West lead and hope to get by with third baseman Carney Lansford at first and reserve infielder Jerry Browne at third.
"We've played around [other injuries] and we'll play around this," La Russa said. "We've played short before."
Hoiles bouncing back
Catcher Chris Hoiles is playing regularly again, but it might be October before his right wrist is back to full strength. He has recovered sufficiently from the wrist fracture that sidelined him for two months, but said he is still feeling some aftereffects.
"It's still weak in some areas," Hoiles said, "and it'll probably be that way the rest of the season."
He still is not entirely comfortable at the plate, but thinks that more a result of inactivity than physical limitation. "It'll come," he said. "I think it's more a matter of timing than anything else."