Key 'concerned' if he'll ever pitch again Lefty says he's unable to do 'anything' with shoulder; Kamieniecki pushed back


Disabled starting pitcher Jimmy Key said before last night's game he feels "concern" about his future while waiting to learn whether his injured left shoulder regains strength.

Key, who underwent an arthrogram on Tuesday and received a cortisone shot Thursday night, will attempt to perform exercises on a rotator cuff machine in several days. Key was scratched from Monday's start in Seattle when the shoulder stiffened during two bullpen sessions.

"Right now, I basically can't do anything," said Key. "I can run. But that's not doing me much good unless I want to run track."

Key, 37, has undergone four operations on the shoulder, most recently in July 1995 to repair a partial tear of the cuff. He says he will retire rather than undergo another procedure.

Unable to throw, Key added, "Am I concerned? Of course you have to be concerned. I can't say for sure when or if I'm going to pitch again. I think that's concern."

Key said he is unable to lift 3-pound weights overhead because of pain in the shoulder. "If it still hurts, I'm not going to do the exercises," he said.

Manager Ray Miller already has conceded Key won't pitch until the middle of next month at the earliest. When he returns, Miller has indicated he will initially be a five-inning pitcher. Now Key only hopes he can fulfill the prediction.

Kamieniecki sits again

The neck stiffness that prevented Scott Kamieniecki from making Thursday's start also will prohibit him from pitching tonight against the Texas Rangers. Kamieniecki will throw on the side today and is scheduled to start Monday against Seattle.

"We'll find out [today] after I throw," he said. "There's been some improvement, but it all depends how it goes. If everything's good, I'll go out Monday."

Miller chose reliever Bobby Munoz to take Kamieniecki's place tonight in what will be a committee approach, most likely to include rested left-hander Arthur Rhodes. Munoz hasn't started a major-league game since being released by Philadelphia on May 16, 1997. He's allowed six runs in six innings since joining the Orioles.

"It's not a big deal. It's the same way, whether I come into a game first or whatever," he said. "I've still got to get people out."

Kamieniecki first noticed the stiffness along the right side of his neck before a May 22 start in Oakland. He lasted just three innings, allowing seven runs in a 9-5 loss that raised his ERA to 6.75.

"I probably aggravated it because it was more sore the next day," he said. "It's annoying. Another annoying missed start, treatments and all the bull that goes with it."

Asked if Kamieniecki's health was becoming a major concern, Miller said, "It was much better yesterday and much better today. If it bothers him after he throws on the side, then I'll be concerned."

Clark leaves Rangers

Rangers first baseman Will Clark abruptly left the club yesterday because of "personal problems," the club said. His return is uncertain for today's game, according to manager Johnny Oates.

He's back

Reliever Armando Benitez returned from his eight-game suspension yesterday, greeted in the clubhouse by outfielder Joe Carter's rendition of the theme song from "Welcome Back Kotter."

Benitez had been unavailable to the Orioles since inciting a 10-minute brawl in New York after hitting the Yankees' Tino Martinez in the back one pitch after allowing a game-turning, three-run homer to Bernie Williams May 19.

Miller said Benitez most likely would be used in the seventh and eighth innings in his first few appearances, rather than close games. He wound up doing both last night, working the last three innings and recording his seventh save. He allowed one run and two hits, and struck out five. Pitching coach Mike Flanagan made two trips to the mound for counseling.

Speaking about his suspension, Benitez said, "It was difficult. I wanted to be there. I wanted to pitch. I've been throwing on the side every day, working on my location. I just have to come back and do my job the best I can.

"I know in my heart I didn't [hit Martinez] on purpose. Tino has a family and I have a family, too. I don't want to be like the enemy."

Mills serves suspension

Meanwhile, reliever Alan Mills began serving his two-game suspension, rather than appeal. Mills landed a punch to the face of New York's Darryl Strawberry while rushing to Benitez's defense.

The Orioles had wanted Mills to remain in the bullpen, but the decision was out of their hands. An appeal can be filed only by the player, his agent or the players association. Mills' agent, Adam Katz, said he believed the suspension and $500 fine were "reasonable, fair and equitable in light of the others in this incident, so we thought it would not be appropriate to appeal."

"I can't do anything about it," GM Pat Gillick said. "They said if the other players didn't get their suspensions reduced, they weren't going to appeal."

Mills declined to comment.

Around the horn

Miller changed his mind and started catcher Chris Hoiles, rather than Lenny Webster, with Doug Johns pitching. Webster had started the last five games, in part because Hoiles bruised a nerve in his right hand May 22. Another factor was Hoiles' 6-for-45 slump over his past 17 games, which includes no extra-base hits and just one RBI since April 21. Hoiles went 0-for-4. Rodriguez, the AL's leading hitter, was back for Texas after sitting out Thursday with a bruised chest. He went 0-for-4 to fall to .372. The Orioles have signed left-hander Matt Riley, 18, their third-round selection in last year's draft. The team had until midnight to sign Riley, or he would have been re-entered into the 1998 draft that begins Tuesday.

Pub Date: 5/30/98

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