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Orioles go slow with Hammonds


SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Phil Regan met with outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds yesterday and explained why he's keeping him out of the first couple of exhibition games: He wants to make sure Hammonds does not rush the recovery of his reconstructed right knee.

"We're going to give him time," said Regan. "If that means holding him out of the first few exhibitions, that's fine."

All in all, Regan said, Hammonds seems to be doing well. Hammonds, whose anterior cruciate ligament was replaced last October, said he's tired at times, and he's annoyed by his cumbersome knee brace.

But publicly and privately, Orioles staff members are saying that Hammonds has made surprising progress, and, barring any unforeseen problems, he'll be in the Opening Day lineup.

Regan: "I think he's going to be fine. . . . In our running drills today, he went from home to second, and he was running very well."

General manager Roland Hemond: "We're encouraged that he has every chance of doing that. We're more encouraged now than during the off-season. We're pleased that he's coming along nicely."

Assistant general manager Frank Robinson: "We're not concerned. As far as we know, with the progress, there's no reason why he won't be ready for Opening Day."

Hammonds is optimistic.

"That's a realistic goal," he said. "When I say I want to be out there Opening Day, I'm not talking about just being out there as a presence, I mean being out there to contribute."

On Monday, Hammonds was given clearance by his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, to participate in any drills he feels capable of handling.

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