The Orioles made room for ace Mike Mussina's return yesterday by giving his spot on the disabled list to Terry Mathews, whose sore right wrist is being blamed for the reliever's string of combustible appearances. The announcement came after the Orioles' 8-7, 11-inning loss to Minnesota at Camden Yards.
Recent X-rays didn't reveal anything serious, and Mathews has been diagnosed with inflammation. This will be his third stay on the DL since breaking into the majors in 1991 with Texas. The move is retroactive to Thursday, so Mathews is eligible to come off the disabled list May 15, though manager Ray Miller said he'll probably make a few starts in the minors on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
Mathews said he'll have an MRI performed tomorrow in Baltimore while the club is scheduled to play an exhibition game in Bowie.
"I think this is best for me right now even though it's hard to personally accept because I like to go out and get the ball and try to help the team," he said. "We've come to the conclusion that this would be the best way for me to help the team, to get the wrist completely healthy and get enough innings to where, when I am called from the bullpen, I can do the job and [Miller's] not having to get me as quick and I can take a whole lot of pressure off the other guys."
It had become apparent to the Orioles that Mathews' faulty mechanics were the result of a physical defect. Miller, pitching coach Mike Flanagan and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks noted that Mathews was lowering his arm on his delivery, showing his palm throughout and causing his slider and sinking fastball to flatten out. The pitcher had begun intensifying treatments on the wrist, icing it twice a day and soaking it in the whirlpool.
"For a year, we've been hearing it's not that bad, he can throw, the velocity's there. But when he tightens it down, he feels a separation," Miller said. "The first thing you lose is movement and the second thing is location.
"He's too valuable a talent, and the way he's handled this is unbelievable. If you look around baseball, at the condition everybody's pitching is in, we'll get that fixed and maybe throw in a rehab, get his value up for us and then maybe he can come back and help us."
The time off provides Mathews with some cover. He had been peppered most times he entered a game, including his last appearance Wednesday in Chicago when he served up a grand slam to Wil Cordero on an 0-and-2 pitch.
It was the fourth homer allowed by Mathews in 10 innings and raised his ERA to 8.10. He has surrendered runs in six of nine outings, and opponents are batting .378 against him.
"I definitely had been wondering why my slider had just left and now, all of a sudden the fastball wasn't sinking," Mathews said. "I've been getting hurt more on 0-2 pitches when I've been using more energy trying to bury the guy."
Mussina will make his first start today since leaving an April 16 game against Chicago after five innings because of a ruptured wart on the index finger of his right hand. He's 2-2 with a 3.21 ERA, walking three and striking out 30 in 28 innings.
Twice unsuccessful in getting rid of the wart over the winter, Mussina had it frozen with liquid nitrogen after his abbreviated start.
Since then, he's thrown in the bullpen three times and used all his pitches the last two sessions, including the breaking stuff that had caused the most irritation and limited his pitch selection in his most recent start.
Mathews becomes the fourth Oriole to go on the disabled list since the season began, joining Mussina, center fielder Brady Anderson and pitcher Scott Kamieniecki. Pitcher Everett Stull and outfielder Danny Clyburn have remained there since spring training.
Miller said Kamieniecki probably will work two innings in tomorrow's exhibition. He's set to return on May 10.
Pub Date: 5/03/98