OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-handed starter Jimmy Key returned to Baltimore during yesterday's game and will undergo an examination today to determine the source of persistent stiffness in his left shoulder. The Orioles intend to place their No. 3 starter on the disabled list today, retroactive to Thursday. They already have recalled Nerio Rodriguez from Triple-A Rochester to start tonight against the Seattle Mariners.
The move jarred a clubhouse that already has seen ace Mike Mussina put on the DL twice and fifth starter Scott Kamieniecki shelved earlier this month. The Orioles have now used the disabled list four times in eight weeks for their starting rotation.
"It was certainly nothing that I wanted to hear today," said manager Ray Miller. "Or any day."
Having already postponed his regular side session for a day, Key noticed stiffness in front of the shoulder while throwing in the bullpen before Saturday night's game and cut short the workout. He returned to the bullpen with pitching coach Mike Flanagan yesterday but again cut off the session.
"I guess when he still remained stiff, I started to pay much more attention to it," said Flanagan. "He said it was still there. So we decided to treat it a little more aggressively and had him get it checked out. We don't want to lose him."
Key, 37, who was not available for comment, told Miller he was willing to attempt tonight's start but his history of shoulder problems made that a poor option.
"Jimmy didn't want to let me down right now," said Miller. "He said we could use him. But we told him, 'That's stupid. It could jeopardize your career.' "
Key has undergone four operations on the shoulder, the most recent on July 5, 1995.
Flanagan insisted the condition did not reveal itself in Key's delivery. "I wouldn't have known," said Flanagan. "Pushing back the throwing day and taking a shorter session on the side, that's not uncommon for pitchers to do. I went out of my way to ask him how it was doing. Today he played catch and it was still there."
Rodriguez (0-1) was scheduled to make tonight's start for
Rochester. He is expected to arrive in Seattle around noon Pacific time today for a 6: 05 game. Miller and Flanagan briefly considered starting Kamieniecki on two days' rest after Friday's three-inning outing. Miller also could have tried to cobble together nine innings from a bullpen that has worked only two innings the last two days.
L "Times like this you just have to improvise," said Flanagan.
Key last appeared on Wednesday in New York, surrendering nine runs and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings. The beating was his worst this season and came partially because of the bullpen's worn condition.
"We can't afford to lose Jimmy. If we do, that's a huge blow," said reliever Jesse Orosco, who didn't hear of the move until the fifth inning. "We've already gone through so much as a staff, a guy like Jimmy helps hold it all together."
Mussina was placed on the disabled list May 18 with a broken nose. He received about 30 stitches after being struck by a line drive against Cleveland. He went on the disabled list April 17 because of a ruptured wart.
Kamieniecki went on the disabled list April 26 because of a strained groin and elbow tenderness. The shuffling has left a makeshift rotation of Scott Erickson, Kamieniecki, Doug Drabek, Doug Johns and Rodriguez. The Orioles, who avoided injuries to their top four starters all of 1997, have had their Opening Day rotation intact for only three days since April 17.
Pub Date: 5/25/98