The elbow pain that forced Orioles pitcher Pat Hentgen onto the disabled list will take him to Birmingham, Ala., sometime this week, where he'll be examined by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. It has also pretty much eliminated any chance of Hentgen's being ready to come off the disabled list when eligible Friday.
A magnetic resonance imaging Saturday was inconclusive, though the Orioles remain convinced the discomfort isn't caused by any ligament damage. Team doctors have diagnosed the problem, which prompted Hentgen to receive a cortisone injection last week, as a sprained flexor tendon.
"This is just to get some more information. He'll see [Andrews] down there and see what he thinks, to get a second opinion," manager Mike Hargrove said.
Hentgen began experiencing pain in the elbow in the first inning of a May 16 start against the Detroit Tigers. He went on the disabled list retroactive to the next day, and his next scheduled turn in the rotation would have been Friday. Before yesterday's game, Hargrove rated the chances of Hentgen's being available to pitch that night as 50-50, but then downgraded them substantially after learning the results of the MRI.
"It's become pretty close to 100 percent he's not going to make his start," Hargrove said.
"I think it's out of the question," said Hentgen, who experiences what he describes as "sharp, quick pain" when throwing his curveball.
"I'm thinking June 1 is not going to happen. I wish it could. This has lingered. If you had asked on the 17th if I thought it would still be bothering me, I would have said, 'No way.' But it's bothering me enough to get an MRI and see another doctor [for] a second opinion."
Hargrove said there was no chance Hentgen, 32, would require an arthroscopic procedure from Andrews, who also examined the pitcher in 1992 when an elbow injury put him on the disabled last. "He's just going down there for a consultation," Hargrove said.
"The longer it lasts, the more concern we have," Hargrove added. "We're certainly more concerned today than we were three days ago. But we've been told by Dr. [Michael] Jacobs that it's an elbow sprain, the flexor tendon, and we're still working under that assumption. That's why he's going down to see Andrews, to be on the safe side."
No skipping Towers
With Saturday's game being postponed because of rain, Hargrove could have skipped Josh Towers in the rotation and kept Willis Roberts as today's starter. He consulted with pitching coach Mark Wiley, who recommended that everyone be pushed back a day and Towers be given his first major-league start.
"I don't know exactly how it works," Towers said, "but if you have a five-man rotation and there's a day off, you usually skip the fifth starter and go back to the No. 1 guy."
But wouldn't Towers be the No. 1 guy, since he's taking Hentgen's turn in the rotation?
"I don't know about that," he said, grinning.
Towers was relieved to still be in the rotation this week since his mother, three sisters, niece and nephew flew in from Southern California. "They're excited. There's no doubt about that," he said.
With each starter receiving an extra day of rest, Jason Johnson is given more recovery time after throwing 114 pitches Thursday.
"There are a couple things that factored into the decision," Hargrove said.
Anderson gets start, single
The postponement brought a different lineup yesterday from the one hanging outside Hargrove's office Saturday. It rated as the 44th different card written out by Hargrove in 48 games.
Brady Anderson, who would have been on the bench Saturday, started in right field yesterday and singled in his first at-bat. He also walked in the second inning.
With left-hander Kenny Rogers starting today for the Rangers, Hargrove most likely will rest the left-handed-hitting Anderson. He didn't want Anderson not playing for three straight days, including the postponement.
Hargrove saw Suzuki's talent
The three-game series in Seattle that begins tomorrow gives the Orioles their first chance to see Japanese sensation Ichiro Suzuki, who is hitting .356 with 24 multi-hit games. He has put together hitting streaks of 23 and 15 games while leading the Mariners to the best record in the major leagues.
Hargrove got a sneak preview of Ichiro a few years ago while accompanying a collection of major-leaguers to Japan.
"The first thing I noticed was his speed," he said. "I watched him in batting practice, and he was a guy who obviously had good hand-eye coordination and hit the ball on a line. He didn't try to do too much.
"After the second game, it was obvious this guy was a player. He was a pretty good player in the first game, too. He won seven batting titles. You can't do that anywhere without being good at what you do."
Around the horn
The game was delayed 1 hour, 5 minutes in the seventh inning because of rain. ... Jeff Conine extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a fifth-inning single. ... Texas infielder Michael Young got his first major-league hit with a single in the fifth inning. He was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma before Friday's game when Randy Velarde went on the disabled list with a pulled left hamstring. ... A crowd of 39,426 included 4,100 walk-ups, a Camden Yards record. ... The first 35,000 fans ages 15 and over attending today's game will receive 12-pack coolers, the largest ever given away by the Orioles.