Eligible Maduro given few more days


Orioles pitcher Calvin Maduro was eligible to come off the disabled list yesterday, but manager Mike Hargrove indicated that a June 5 return is more likely, when the club is in New York to begin a three-game interleague series with the Mets.

Maduro went on the disabled list retroactive to May 13 with a strained ligament in his right elbow. Though no longer bothered by any pain, Maduro didn't throw for the first time until Thursday, when he did some light tossing during batting practice.

Hargrove left open the possibility that Maduro could be activated sooner, perhaps while the club is in Montreal beginning Friday. But the Aruban right-hander likely will be sent on an injury rehabilitation assignment, which would make New York a more probable location for his return.

"We want to get him back as soon as we can, but we want him healthy so we don't lose him when we get him back," Hargrove said.

"I think it would be safe to say that by the time we go into New York, he'd probably be ready."

Hargrove wants to return Maduro to a long relief role, which he settled into after making two starts. He gave up23 runs and 26 hits in 22 innings over 13 appearances.

"He gives us another arm in the back of the bullpen, which has proven to be effective in tough situations," Hargrove said. "This kid can throw the ball 94 mph, he's got a nasty little curveball and a good changeup."

Maduro's fastball averaged 90-91 while in the rotation, but he's been able to reach 94 mph when pitching in relief. Hargrove saw a similar jump in velocity with Cleveland's Steve Karsay.

"Karsay, before we put him in the bullpen last year, threw the ball 92, 93. All of a sudden we put him in the bullpen and he was able to let it go for an inning, and he was throwing it 97, 98," Hargrove said.

McElroy, Mercedes return

Hargrove finally was able to use relievers Chuck McElroy and Jose Mercedes on Saturday after a 13-day absence. Though he hasn't been taxing his bullpen, Hargrove said he'll stay with a 12-man staff for now rather than add an extra position player.

That thinking could change, however, if his starters continue to work deep into games. His rotation has turned in five straight quality starts.

"That's one of those things where you walk along for three weeks and never need that 12th pitcher, then all of a sudden when you need him, you need him real bad," Hargrove said. "And given our lineup, there aren't a lot of pinch-hitting moves, so having a deeper bench is not as big a priority as what you'd think."

Johnson says he can play

Catcher Charles Johnson told Hargrove that he probably could have played yesterday, but even before the rainout he was told he would be given more time to recover from being hit in the groin by a foul tip on Friday. Backup Greg Myers remained on the lineup card.

"He was a lot better after [Saturday's] game and his comment to me was he was ready to play, but to be on the safe side we'll give it another day," Hargrove said.

Johnson, walking with a more comfortable stride than on Saturday, is hoping to convince Hargrove that he can play today in Tampa Bay.

"I'll tell him I'm all right," Johnson said. "It's up to the big man."

Hargrove held his breath in the first inning of Saturday's game when Myers took a ball off his shoulder. Had Myers been unable to continue, Hargrove would have needed either B.J. Surhoff or utility infielder Mark Lewis to move behind the plate.

"I was glad he got through nine innings without straining something," Hargrove said of Myers, who had to leave two games this season because of cramping since coming off the disabled list on April 17.

Most recently, Myers was forced out of a May 18 game in Texas because of cramps in his left leg. He said the discomfort was related to the strained hamstring that put him on the disabled list to open the season.

"It's not completely gone," Myers said. "Eventually I think it'll subside but it's something I have to keep an eye on."

Myers could relate to Johnson's injury. He was hit twice and forced to leave games while playing for Anaheim and Minnesota.

Both times, the foul tip ricocheted off the dirt before striking him underneath. Johnson took a direct hit.

"That's the worst pain you can possibly imagine," Myers said. "There's actually a nerve that runs up through your stomach and around your back.

"A lot of what you feel is that, when it hits that nerve real hard. A lot of not being able to move and the breathing problems come from that."

Clark waiting on 1st homer

Yesterday's rainout meant Will Clark continued to sit on numbers that included a.333 average and .482 on-base percentage, but also no home runs and four RBIs.

Clark went deep 10 times last season, when he appeared in only 77 games because of injuries. It was the lowest total of his major-league career, which began in1986 with the San Francisco Giants.

Clark said he's not concerned about the power outage, attributing it mostly to a limited amount of at-bats and poor luck.

He's gone to the plate 24 times since coming off the disabled list May 18, and is 28-for-84 this season. "I'm still getting my timing down. I've had some good swings the last few days. I'll be all right," he said.

Clark almost got his first one on Friday when he drove a pitch from Oakland rookie Mark Mulder to the center-field warning track. "The wind was blowing in. I hit it as hard as I could to the base of the wall. Bad timing there," he said.

"I don't think about that," he said about the lack of home runs. "I'm definitely going to hit one. There's no question about that. It'll happen. Don't you worry about it."

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