Key to listen to his arm in start Lefty has no 'goals,' open to 5 innings at Frederick; Hammonds nears start


In yesterday's sports section, a caption incorrectly identified an Oriole making a play at second base. The player was Jeff Reboulet.

The Sun regrets the error.

Jimmy Key shied away from the numbers again yesterday, declining to project how many innings he'll throw in tomorrow's rehab start at Single-A Frederick, or on which date he'll return to the Orioles' rotation. He's just focused on taking what could be the final step before returning to the club.

The rest, he figures, will take care of itself.

"I'm going to let my arm tell me what to do," he said before last night's game against Oakland. "I'm just going to pitch and make sure my arm's OK. I don't have any goals. I don't want to be disappointed. I'm just going to start the game and see what happens."

Manager Ray Miller said he suggested that Key pitch three innings. Key left open the possibility of going five.

"I said, 'I'll leave that up to you.' He feels fine now," Miller said. "He just wants to see some bats. He threw some BP, but he wants to get some game conditions under his belt."

Key hasn't appeared in a game since May 20 in New York, when he allowed nine runs and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He went on the disabled list four days later with inflammation in his left rotator cuff.

In the past, Key always has made at least two rehab starts before rejoining the major-league club, but circumstances are different this year.

"I haven't been on a time frame like this, where it's this late in the season and you want to get back as quickly as possible," he said. "We're just going to have to see how I feel Friday and make a decision after that. Hopefully everything goes well and I'll be back soon. I'm to the point where I'm close and that part's exciting."

Key threw five simulated innings Sunday in Anaheim. As expected, his location hasn't been as good as he'd like.

"I guess the biggest thing is my arm isn't getting any worse the more I throw. It's staying about the same," he said.

Miller said Key probably will be activated next week, and could pitch out of the bullpen a few times before making a start.

Hammonds eyes weekend

With two left-handers scheduled to pitch for Seattle this weekend, Miller said he'll attempt to get outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds back in the lineup. Hammonds has made two appearances, as a defensive replacement in center field and last night as a pinch runner, since leaving the July 13 game against Texas after feeling some tingling down his left arm while striking out.

Hammonds has batted twice since May 31, when a disk-related nerve disorder in his neck forced him on the disabled list. He has only 37 at-bats in the last two months.

Asked when he'll be able to play, Hammonds said, "It'll be sooner than later."

"He told me he's ready," Miller said. "I'll get him in there. The doctors are a little cautious, but he says he's ready and that's good enough for me.

"I want to get him going. We haven't exactly killed lefties."

The Orioles were hitting .263 against left-handers going into last night, compared to .279 vs. right-handers.

More pain for Rhodes

Reliever Arthur Rhodes wasn't able to throw yesterday because of persistent discomfort in his left elbow. He hasn't attempted to toss a ball since Friday in Anaheim, when pain cut short the session after five minutes.

Rhodes, who remains on the disabled list with a strained tendon, may try again today.

Run, Rickey, run

Rickey Henderson is stoking the fires for the A's again this season in a fourth stint with his hometown team at the age of 39.

"The other players feed off me," said Henderson. "They think I'm a winner. I've been around so much it makes these guys believe in me. I'm excited to once again be on a team that has a chance to make the playoffs. I have a track record of being on teams that are in the race in the end. I motivate other players."

Henderson's fifth-inning steal of second last night kept him tied with Pittsburgh's Tony Womack for the major-league lead with 39 stolen bases. It also allowed him to become the second-oldest player ever to steal his age. Davey Lopes had 47 steals at 40.

So what keeps baseball's all-time stolen base leader (1,270) ticking as he nears his 40th birthday next Christmas Day?

"My work ethic and staying away from injuries," said Henderson. "Injuries take a lot of players out of the game. I've been fortunate to be healthy for so many years and plan to just keep on playing."

Hall of Fame reinforcements

Just as he did for the exhibition game at Double-A Bowie two months ago, Miller is asking for reinforcements for Monday's Hall of Fame game against Toronto in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Orioles will dip into their minor-league pool, with Miller requesting four pitchers, two catchers, two infielders and two outfielders. Right-hander Chris Fussell, who was promoted to Triple-A Rochester this week, is expected to pitch. Miller said the club also has inquired about Rocky Coppinger, who threw six innings in Tuesday night's victory over Syracuse.

Outfielders Danny Clyburn and Lyle Mouton probably will be summoned, as well.

Around the horn

Eight games back is the closest the Orioles have been to the wild card since trailing the Red Sox by 7 1/2 games June 16. The Orioles have 11 pitchers for the first time this season after designating Joel Bennett for assignment, but Miller said he'd like to get back to 12 with the eventual returns of Key, Rhodes and Scott Kamieniecki. "Eleven is fine until you hit two starts in a row where you use everybody up, then go into that third day," he said. Matt Stairs' second-inning home run was the first given up by Orioles pitchers in nine games, breaking a streak of 76 innings. Stairs went 3-for-4 and is 31-for-73 (.425) with five homers over his last 23 games. Eric Davis, now an everyday designated hitter, owns a 10-game hitting streak with nine extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in his past 17 games. Outfielder Joe Carter is 4-for-29 (.138) since the All-Star break. Fans attending Saturday's game can donate their used baseball equipment to the annual Oriole Advocates Cardboard to Leather Program. The equipment will be restored or repaired and given to children in the Dominican Republic. Fans bringing a baseball or glove will receive an autographed postcard of an Orioles player in exchange for their donation. Carter, Davis and Brady Anderson will host "Men With Bats" to benefit the Eric Davis Foundation and the American Cancer Society on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. at the ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor. Dinner, games and sports memorabilia auctions are included. Information: 410-931-6850, ext. 350.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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