FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The hole in the middle of the Orioles' lineup threatened to expand yesterday as first baseman and cleanup hitter David Segui was scratched from an exhibition game because of a recurring right hamstring pull that may prevent his return to the lineup for at least a week.
Segui reinjured himself during Monday night's exhibition against the Florida Marlins. After accepting a first-inning walk, he felt a pull in the hamstring while running the bases. Segui later jogged out a double-play grounder and was lifted after three innings. Chris Richard took over at first base in yesterday's game against the Marlins.
"We'll probably hold him out. I don't know how long - three, five, seven days ... maybe longer, maybe not that long," manager Mike Hargrove said after posting yesterday's lineup.
"Last night, he said he was about 95 percent. He felt fine. And then he took a step off the bag and felt it again. So we shut him down. We want to take care of it now and not have it linger."
Segui, 34, has landed on the disabled list four times during an 11-year career but only once since 1997. He is coming off his most productive season, in which he hit .334 with 19 home runs and a career-high 103 RBIs while dividing time between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians.
"I don't talk about my injuries," said Segui, limping noticeably. Asked how long he expected to be out, he only shrugged.
Segui injured the hamstring last month during a base-running drill and missed several days. Seemingly recovered, he homered from both sides of the plate on Sunday against Boston.
Signed as a free agent to a four-year, $28 million contract last December, Segui has grown more important to the lineup since the de facto retirement of right fielder Albert Belle, whom the club placed on the 60-day disabled list March 7. Without him, the Orioles don't have a player on their roster with a 100-RBI season since 1996. Mike Kinkade batted cleanup in yesterday's exhibition.
Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift has consistenly said despite Belle's loss, there is no pursuit on for another hitter; however, several clubs have shown interest in the Orioles' apparent surplus of left-handed relievers. The Orioles will choose from among Chuck McElroy, John Bale, B. J. Ryan and Buddy Groom for three left-handers in a seven-man bullpen. Should McElroy fail to make the club as a starter, the team may consider dealing either him or the durable Groom.
This spring has been marked as much by injuries as by a new-look clubhouse. Pitchers Luis Rivera and Mark Nussbeck have been shut down by shoulder injuries. Belle never appeared in an exhibition game because of his deteriorated right hip. Third baseman Cal Ripken has yet to face live pitching because of a fractured rib suffered the week before camp opened. And yesterday Hargrove conceded it is unlikely that Alan Mills will open the season on the active roster after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery Sept. 15.
Outfielder Luis Matos, projected to play most of this season at Triple-A Rochester, suffered a dislocated shoulder while sliding into third base March 6 and underwent surgery yesterday in Birmingham, Ala., to tighten the shoulder capsule. He is expected to miss at least two months.
Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.