Orioles reliever Alan Mills had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Thursday, ending his season, but not the chances that he'll be ready before next spring.
Dr. James Andrews performed the operation in Birmingham, Ala., cleaning out the shoulder and making sure there was no structural damage. Mills hasn't pitched since Sept. 3 in Cleveland, when he walked Manny Ramirez on four pitches and was removed from the game.
Mills spent most of August on the disabled list with inflammation in the shoulder. He was 2-0 with a 6.46 ERA in 23 games since rejoining the Orioles in a June 13 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Everything was fine," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. "The report I received said it should be a very simple rehab."
The Orioles remain less open about Albert Belle's condition.
Belle missed his 11th consecutive game last night because of inflammation in his right hip. A late arrival at Camden Yards yesterday, he continues to walk with a noticeable limp. Though his name appears among the reserves on the lineup card, it doesn't appear that he's nearing a return.
"I've talked about that until I'm blue in the face," said manager Mike Hargrove. "Until we gather all the medical information that there is to gather and make a firm decision on where we go with Albert as far as playing time or rest is concerned, Albert's not going to play. And we still haven't done that."
Belle was examined by team orthopedists Dr. Michael Jacobs and Dr. Charles Silberstein on Sept. 6. He had asked out of the lineup two days earlier in Minnesota and sought treatment from the medical staff in his first concession to the injury.
Conine likely out
It doesn't appear that Jeff Conine will play during the three-game series against Seattle that began last night. He continues to receive treatment for a strained ligament behind his left ankle, an injury that mystifies him.
Conine isn't sure how it happened. He's only certain of the location. He might have hurt the ankle while walking down the dugout steps in Anaheim, or perhaps when his foot landed on first base as he watched a ball hit to right field.
Whatever the cause, it forced Conine to leave the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader in Texas after one at-bat.
"It was something very subtle," he said. "That night [in Anaheim], it started bothering me, and when I got off the plane in Texas, I felt it. I had trouble sleeping that night, and the next day I tried to run on it. When I decelerate, I step down and it just jams in there."
"It's better, but it's still pretty sore to the touch."
Conine held out hope that he could play this weekend, but Hargrove indicated it would be at least a few more days.
J. Garcia bides time
Another night passed without Jesus Garcia's name in the lineup. Once a utility infielder with the club, he continues to hover in the background, waiting for a chance to play and trying not to read too much into his inactivity.
Garcia had made one appearance before last night since being called up from Triple-A Rochester on Sept. 2. He entered the opening game of Tuesday's doubleheader in the eighth inning, failing to get an at-bat.
"I don't know what to think," he said. "You wonder sometimes when you look at how you're not getting playing time. I'm human, but what can you do? I'll just keep working hard and do what I need to do.
"This is the big leagues. This is where you want to be, no matter what."
Richard stays focused
Rookie Chris Richard hopes another change in cities doesn't alter his momentum.
Richard is coming off a productive road trip that strengthened his push toward the starting first base job next spring. Among the highlights were five RBIs in Wednesday's victory in Texas, and six RBIs to go with 13 total bases in a Sept. 3 loss in Cleveland. He came within a single of hitting for the cycle, but achieved his second multi-homer game.
"I felt more comfortable," said Richard, who came to the Orioles in a July 29 trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for reliever Mike Timlin. "It was good to get the first 50 at-bats out of the way, and getting used to a new coaches and teammates and a new league."
Richard has nine homers and 26 RBIs in 145 at-bats. He's accumulated five doubles, two triples, eight homers and 20 RBIs in his past 30 games.
At times, it appears Richard is confused by all the fuss.
"It's not like I just woke up and started playing. I've been playing for a long time. It's just a matter of preparing yourself mentally and physically every day," he said.
Richard describes himself as a "late bloomer," a label that fits a 26-year-old player trying to establish himself in the majors.