Orioles reliever Gene Harris went on the disabled list yesterday with an elbow problem that could lead to surgery, and Orioles officials are considering filing a grievance against the Philadelphia Phillies for dealing damaged goods.
The Orioles acquired Harris from the Phillies on June 18 for outfielder Andy Van Slyke, and he pitched in three games. But after throwing two-thirds of an inning Saturday night, Harris' right elbow, which has bothered him in the past, began to ache severely.
After being examined by Dr. Michael Jacobs, Harris was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He will see Dr. James Andrews later this week for further tests.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos and general manager Roland Hemond have discussed whether a grievance was in order; in the past, trades have been reversed or altered when it was determined that a team involved did not divulge relevant medical information.
Hemond said he called Philadelphia general manager Lee Thomas yesterday morning, and Thomas assured him that at the time of the trade, he thought Harris was OK.
Hemond acknowledged that before making the deal, he asked Thomas flatly, "Is he OK?" and Thomas had told him Harris was fine. Two nights before the deal, Harris' fastball was clocked at 92 mph (on Saturday, radar clocked Harris at 94 mph).
The Orioles' suspicion could be based in how the Phillies used Harris in the weeks leading up to the trade.
Through May 23, Harris was 2-0 with an 0.60 ERA in 15 appearances, but he began to complain of pain in his shoulder, and his performance suffered -- he allowed seven runs over two innings in his next four appearances.
Then Harris didn't pitch for 12 days. He threw twice, on June 14 and June 16, and on the night of the 16th, Thomas called Hemond and asked about the availability of Van Slyke.
Hemond and Thomas discussed other possible combinations before settling on Harris. But even before the deal was consummated, there were rumors Harris was hurt.
He's had arm problems in the past. He had elbow surgery, to clear out loose fragments, in October of 1993, and after the San Diego Padres traded him to the Detroit Tigers in May of '94, his elbow bothered him so much that he was placed on the disabled list for nearly two months. In the off-season, sources say, Harris was told by a doctor that a ligament in his elbow was partially torn, and that reconstructive surgery was a possibility.
"I heard about the problems," Hemond said, "but all sorts of guys pitch with partial tears."
If Harris can't pitch again this year, the Orioles will, at the least, save money from the deal. Harris' base salary is $375,000, while Van Slyke's base salary is $550,000.
Hemond said he didn't "want to make a big deal out of this," but he would not rule out a grievance.
The Orioles now have five pitchers on the disabled list: Kevin Brown, Ben McDonald, Sid Fernandez, Mark Eichhorn, and now Harris.