The Orioles again postponed a decision on sore-ribbed Brady Anderson yesterday and are apparently prepared to wait until 35 minutes before today's first pitch before either writing their All-Star center fielder into the starting lineup or reluctantly sending him to the 15-day disabled list.
During yesterday's 90-minute workout, Anderson swung a bat for the first time since suffering his injury in a March 23 exhibition against the Atlanta Braves. His 30 swings confirmed pain in his left side.
"You can feel it," he said, but Anderson doggedly held to the possibility of playing today.
"This is what I do, play baseball," Anderson said. "If it was one of my hobbies, I'd take a break. But it's not."
Anderson has been told his one cracked rib will require three weeks to heal completely. The club must decide whether Anderson's willingness to work through pain offsets the risk of aggravating the condition.
Despite receiving a diagnosis of appendicitis last season, Anderson refused surgery and hit .308 with 17 home runs and 38 RBIs after Aug. 1. He has not missed significant time since suffering from chickenpox in 1993.
"They're giving me a little more latitude, probably because of last year," Anderson said.
General manager Pat Gillick said Anderson will not enter the season in limbo. He either will start today or be disabled retroactive to the original incident. Anderson had previously insisted the call whether to play would be his. However, yesterday he acknowledged the input of manager Davey Johnson, himself bothered by a flu bug. Despite the indecision, Johnson has been less than optimistic about Anderson's chances.
"I'll listen to what they have to say. They'll listen to what I have to say," Anderson said yesterday.
The potential loss of Anderson until April 7 was compounded yesterday by the revelation that pitchers Rocky Coppinger and Mike Mussina also are bothered by injuries. One day after enduring a troubled start in the exhibition finale, Coppinger was disabled with a sore shoulder; Mussina was pushed back from today's scheduled start with a tender elbow. Anderson's absence would leave the team only two starters, catcher Chris Hoiles and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, returning to the same positions as last Opening Day.
Though no one minimizes the loss of Anderson's 50-50 talent, there are surprisingly strong replacements. Should Anderson not start, Jeffrey Hammonds would assume his role in center field and designated hitter Tony Tarasco would lead off. Hammonds, considered a tradable afterthought a month ago, elevated himself with a monstrous camp. Hammonds led the Orioles with seven home runs, 14 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases this spring.
Anderson's roster spot would go to minor-league infielder Willis Otanez, who also benefited from a productive spring. Otanez, 23, hit .265 with 24 home runs last year at Double-A Bowie.
Pub Date: 4/01/97