Rotator cuff to cost Key at least 3 starts Mussina, Kamieniecki iffy, O's scramble for rotation


SEATTLE -- It has become a daily ritual. Arrive at the ballpark and discuss matchups. This pitcher and that injury.

The Orioles played the game anew yesterday, confirming they will be without another of their top three starters for up to three more weeks while holding their breath on another.

An arthrogram performed yesterday on Jimmy Key revealed that the Orioles left-hander is suffering from inflammation of the left rotator cuff. Meaning: Key will miss at least three starts, according to manager Ray Miller. When Key returns around mid-June, he will be placed on a restricted pitch count likely limiting him to five innings for one, possibly two starts.

Key will receive a cortisone injection into the inflamed area tomorrow and then begin a rehab program to strengthen the area.

Club officials suspect the problem had been building for some time but Key attempted to pitch through it. He finally acknowledged the condition when unable to complete a pair of side sessions last weekend in Oakland.

Any mention of shoulder problems represents a red flag with Key. He has undergone four procedures on the area, including surgery to repair the rotator cuff in July 1995.

Scott Kamieniecki, elevated to the team's No. 3 starter because of Key's and Mike Mussina's absence, remains iffy for a scheduled Saturday start against the Texas Rangers. He was unable to throw in the bullpen Monday due to stiffness on the right side of his neck.

Kamieniecki may wait until Friday to test the area again. If he is unable to go, Miller hopes that Mussina may be ready to leave the disabled list 16 days after being struck in the face by a Sandy Alomar line drive.

Mussina, who broke his nose and needed 20 stitches to close a wound above his right eye, still must prove he can pitch comfortably. He not only must combat residual pressure in his face, but deal with any mental aftereffects from suffering such a blow.

If neither Kamieniecki nor Mussina can go Saturday, Miller must go to his bullpen. Bobby Munoz likely would receive the call. Kamieniecki then would be penciled in to start Monday against Seattle.

Miller hopes to learn today whether Mussina can pitch Saturday. If he and Kamieniecki are both unable to go, the manager faces unseemly alternatives.

While the Orioles await Key's return, Doug Johns will remain in the rotation. After beginning the year at Triple-A Rochester, Johns has progressed from left-handed long relief into the rotation despite dealing with insomnia.

Johns made 23 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 1996 and nine for them in 1995. However, he began last year in the Italian professional leagues before being signed to a minor-league contract by the Kansas City Royals, released, then signed by Rochester.

In his past two starts, Johns has allowed two earned runs in 12 innings. He has been denied a win in both because the bullpen couldn't hold his 5-1 lead against the New York Yankees and his offense couldn't give him more than one run in what became a 2-1 win over Oakland on Sunday.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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