KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A series to forget for the Orioles outfield finally claimed a victim last night when right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds slammed into the fence chasing Chili Davis's second-inning double. The impact jarred Hammonds' left ankle, aggravating a sore Achilles' tendon that has left him day-to-day for the last several weeks. A decision on whether he needs to be put on the disabled list will be made today.
"It's hard to say right now," Hammonds said of the injury's severity. "It's not helping me with the wall ball. I should know better [today] what I can and can't do. You want to go all out. Sometimes you catch it; sometimes you don't. I wish I could catch it a little more so I can get a little more pleasure out of this pain."
Hammonds retrieved Davis' double then immediately tumbled to the ground. Trainer Richie Bancells rushed to him and manager Davey Johnson had emerged from the dugout before Hammonds waved them off.
Hammonds remained in the game after the play but was removed by Johnson after 4 1/2 innings in favor of Tony Tarasco. Hammonds was limping noticeably and was in obvious pain when running out a fourth-inning grounder to third base.
"It hurts. [Johnson] knows it hurts. When I can run after a ball or beat out a base hit, those are the things I look at. If I can get that done, I can keep going out there and help the ball club win," Hammonds said.
The Kauffman Stadium outfield has resembled a mine field this week. Geronimo Berroa's misadventures in right field Tuesday were accompanied by Brady Anderson suffering an injured nose when a fly ball rebounded off the wall and the warning track to catch him in the face. (An unknown teammate attached a makeshift visor fashioned from a milk carton to Anderson's hat before yesterday's game.)
Anderson, bothered by an inflamed right patella tendon, appeared to aggravate the condition last night when he ran down Jeff King's sacrifice fly two batters after Davis's double. Anderson noticeably favored the leg when he grounded out in his next at-bat. Johnson said he did not believe the situation serious.
Boskie takes it easy
With his return from the disabled list not scheduled until Aug. 31, Shawn Boskie is adopting a conservative approach about resuming a throwing program. Boskie played catch from about 40 feet Tuesday, marking his first activity since being shut down Saturday. He was inactive yesterday and will toss again today and tomorrow before contemplating a mound session on Sunday.
"The most important thing is for me to be ready when I can pitch," Boskie said. "There's really not any urgency for me to throw right now."
Had Boskie not accepted a cortisone shot in his right elbow last Saturday, team doctors said he might have thrown 70-90 pitches in Tuesday's doubleheader. But the condition, elbow tendinitis, likely would not have improved if he hadn't agreed to prescribed rest. The shutdown is only the latest hurdle to a season that Boskie describes as "a challenging year."
"There have been some rough spots, but it's been more exciting from a team perspective," said Boskie, who had allowed one earned run in 20 innings over his last eight relief appearances but still carries an unsightly 5.33 ERA in 72 2/3 innings.
Boskie understands the importance from a personal and team perspective. Not only will the Orioles be challenging for a division title but Boskie will be trying to convince other teams that he can still be effective. Boskie's ERA is almost identical to last year's 5.32 figure but he lacks the 12 wins that went along with it.
"I really don't want to put so much pressure on myself that I don't pitch well. That's what happened last season [with the California Angels]. I had put together a good year then put so much pressure on myself to finish strong. The opposite happened," recalled Boskie, who was 12-7 through August then went 0-4 with a 7.54 ERA in his last five starts.
A start for Benitez
Johnson says a winter league stint for reliever Armando Benitez as a starting pitcher could help him mature into a more complete reliever.
"Last winter he was going to go down there [to the Dominican winter league] and close but I wouldn't mind him starting because I think it would make his slider better," said Johnson.
Johnson quickly added that he would not use the experience to make Benitez into a major-league starter, insisting, "I think his future is to close. But I think you come in and close and know how to pitch to spot your fastball, back-door his slider, work on a changeup."
Around the horn
Johnson would love for Eric Davis and Roberto Alomar to show up this weekend ready to play but acknowledges that even Alomar's return is uncertain. Still, Johnson can dream. "It seems to me when Alomar and Davis were here, we were two runs better than everyone else. Now it seems we're just one run better. I got one run dumber when I lost those two guys. It seems like we had a little better spread when we had those guys. It just felt that way." How far Davis has to go before playing is uncertain but he has told Orioles officials that he has begun hitting off a tee and has taken live batting practice against slow-speed pitching. Davis, who had chemotherapy yesterday but will now be given two weeks off from treatment, is only jogging. One limitation is finding a place to rehab. The minor leagues wrap up their regular seasons at the end of the month, making a stint at Rochester or Bowie unlikely. Tickets for the coming homestand are limited. The weekend series against the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets are sold out except for bleachers and standing room. Against the Royals, 4,000 seats remain for Aug. 26, 7,000 seats for Aug. 27 and 5,500 for Aug. 28.
Hits and misses
On the field: Rafael Palmeiro is regarded as the one Oriole capable of carrying the team for an extended period. Last night's 4-for-4 performance was his second four-hit effort this season and, according to Palmeiro, his best game of the year. Palmeiro has ended a 2-for-37 funk by hitting in eight of his last 11 games. In his last three games he is 7-for-12 with three home runs.
In the dugout: With his bullpen on life support, Davey Johnson was prepared to use any means to keep from using Terry Mathews, Arthur Rhodes or Jesse Orosco. To protect himself, he had Scott Erickson warming in the seventh inning in case Jimmy Key faltered. Key had little trouble and Erickson was joined by Armando Benitez, who came on to pitch the eighth.
In the clubhouse: "You can't play a game thinking what you can or can't do. We have able bodies behind me that can do it. As long as I'm out there, I have to give my all," said right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds, who may be put on disabled list today after aggravating a tender Achilles' tendon last night.