Nearing finals, Hammonds crams Repeating 'spring training,' outfielder awaits rehab stint


Likening his situation to cramming for final exams, Orioles outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds worked out again yesterday and is drawing closer to a rehab assignment in the minors, then a return to the club.

Hammonds has been on the disabled list since June 6, retroactive to June 3, because of a nerve irritation in his neck that trainer Richie Bancells said caused the muscle spasms in his back. Having been inactive for about a month, he's now able to take some swings in the cage and run the bases. He also played catch in the outfield with bench coach Eddie Murray four hours before last night's game, moving farther away to put more effort behind each throw.

At one point, Hammonds was shaded toward left-center field taking aim at Murray along the right-field line. He's still trying to rebuild the strength in his arm and legs.

"I'm getting there. It's feeling much better. No setbacks, and that's the name of the game, but I haven't done enough to give you a timetable," he said.

"I've started to do more things so I'm getting closer. But I've been out a month, not able to do anything, so it's not going to come in two days. I'm on a spring training crash course. It's like cramming for exams, and the exams are shortly after the [All-Star] break. That's as close as I can come to giving a timetable."

Manager Ray Miller said Hammonds showed up yesterday with a list of activities he wanted to perform. "I said, 'Well, we better run that by some doctors first.' "

Hammonds was expected to meet with club officials last night about rehabbing in the minors. "I want him to play some games," Miller said.

Kamieniecki set to throw

Another of the injured Orioles, Scott Kamieniecki, is scheduled to throw from a mound today, as he did for the first time Tuesday.

"It feels all right so far," said Kamieniecki, on the DL since May 23 because of a pinched nerve in his neck. "The second test is [today] and we'll go from there."

Kamieniecki intends to throw harder today and mix in his breaking ball.

"I have to. Every time out you want to go forward," he said. "In a sense this is encouraging, but I didn't expect it to hurt. It didn't before when I threw like this. It didn't until I really geared up. So I'm encouraged but cautious."

Rhodes less traveled

Miller had another bullpen option last night with the return of left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who was shut down the past six games because of a sore elbow.

Rhodes hadn't pitched since entering the June 23 game against the New York Mets at Camden Yards after a rain delay of 1: 26. He allowed three runs and four hits in one inning and took the loss.

Rhodes had thrown three shutout innings two days earlier, and again two nights before that. He admitted to feeling tired during his last appearance.

Drabek better physically

There's been little for Doug Drabek to celebrate after Sunday's abbreviated start in Montreal, when he allowed five runs and seven hits in only 2 1/3 innings, but at least he has his health.

Drabek said he wasn't bothered by the strained muscle in his chest that had kept him out of the rotation since June 13, and had no recurrence of the problem in the days after Sunday's outing. His next scheduled turn is Saturday in the Bronx.

"That felt fine. I didn't feel it at all. I didn't feel it stretching, either so it was a nonfactor," he said.

"Now it's a matter of getting my act straight. Trying's not enough."

Drabek (5-8, 7.12 ERA) hasn't won since May 28. In four June starts, he was 0-3 with a 15.63 ERA covering 12 2/3 innings.

Charlton reads only signs

Terry Mathews had anticipated being designated for assignment Tuesday after reading about his tenuous situation in the newspapers the past few days, complete with quotes from Miller. Miller also had expressed his dissatisfaction with Norm Charlton, though the left-hander was unaware of it.

"I don't read the paper for that reason. I don't think this stuff belongs in the paper. If you guys want to speculate, that's fine. But when it comes from in there " he said, pointing to Miller's office.

"I can't allow that to get to my confidence or my ego or to get me up or to get me down."

The Orioles needed to clear a spot for Nerio Rodriguez, who was activated from the DL. It came down to Mathews or Charlton.

Charlton said he was aware that Rodriguez had gone on a rehab assignment "and I hadn't thought about what was going to happen when he came back."

"If you worry about things like that, you're not concentrating on what you're doing or the job at hand," he added. " If I read stuff that's bad about me, that's not going to help me throw the baseball."

Charlton has been throwing it better lately. He followed Mathews in Montreal on Sunday and turned it two scoreless innings and retired the only batter he faced Tuesday.

Though he hasn't been charged with a run over his last five appearances, his ERA hasn't been below 7.00 since May 25.

Around the horn

Golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez threw out the first pitch. The Orioles have allowed 67 first-inning runs, second-worst in the majors behind Detroit (79). Marlins manager Jim Leyland feels for his longtime friend Miller. "I think it's pretty simple. When you lose Jimmy Key and [Mike] Mussina and Kamieniecki, it's tough," Leyland said of the Orioles' skid. "I don't care how many runs you score. It's not always the best pitching staff that wins, it's the healthiest."

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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