Unable to throw his curveball without pain during yesterday's bullpen session, Orioles starter Pat Hentgen was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow. The move is retroactive to May 17, making him eligible to return next Friday, when the club begins a three-game series in Oakland.
Hentgen threw off a flat surface for about three minutes and from the mound for eight before heading to the clubhouse and seeking a conference with manager Mike Hargrove. Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, also spoke with Hentgen during the brief meeting. Hargrove then announced the move, which included the promotion of rookie Josh Towers from Triple-A Rochester.
Towers will make his first major-league start tomorrow against the Texas Rangers, taking Hentgen's turn in the rotation. He last pitched on Tuesday, so he'll be working on the normal four days' rest.
Hentgen was bothered by some tightness in his right shoulder during a May 4 start against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, which contributed to a messy outing in Tampa on May 10 when he walked six and didn't record a strikeout in six innings. He revealed yesterday that the pain in his elbow surfaced in the first inning of a May 16 game against Detroit. He pitched through the seventh in a 3-2 victory.
"To be honest, I didn't think I'd miss a start when I first did it against the Tigers, but it just hasn't gotten better at the rate I hoped it would," said Hentgen, who is 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in nine appearances covering 62 1/3 innings. "I feel it on a significant pitch, which I think is probably a good thing because we could narrow down what it is. I think it's just tendinitis. That's what the doctors told me. We're going to rest and get it going on June 1."
Hentgen received a cortisone injection earlier in the week. He pushed back a scheduled bullpen session on Thursday, hoping an extra day would enhance the healing process and prevent his first trip to the disabled list in nine years.
"In '92 it was related to the ligament. This time it's more the flexor tendon. That's a good thing. They've done all the ligament tests and I haven't felt any pain," said Hentgen, who will have an MRI tomorrow.
"I could have easily went out there and pitched [tomorrow]. It felt a lot better today than it did three days ago, which is also a good sign. Given it's only the second month of the season, we've still got four long months to go. I want to be a big part of that, so from an outsider looking in I think it's a great move. I just have trouble admitting that because I want to pitch."
Hentgen has no trouble throwing his fastball, split-fingered fastball and changeup. It's only the curve that brings what he describes as a "sharp, quick pain."
"He just needs more rest," Hargrove said. "It's better today than it had been three days ago, but it's still there. If this was September and we were fighting for a playoff spot, we'd probably go ahead and pitch him. But at this point in the season we didn't feel like it was good for him or the club if he goes out and pitches and it becomes worse.
"I'm no more concerned now than I was yesterday," Hargrove added. "If he's not any better at the end of these seven days than he was today, then it escalates."
Towers was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in four relief appearances with the Orioles before being sent down to Rochester on May 15 when David Segui came off the disabled list. He was 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA in six starts at Rochester.