O's hope Segui didn't catch bad break


FORT MYERS, Fla. - The mere words sent a chill through an entire organization, even with the first-pitch temperature at 77 degrees. One of its most important players was hurt again.

"There's been a change in the Orioles' lineup," said a voice yesterday in the City of Palms Park press box. "David Segui has been scratched."

The Orioles soon will learn whether history has been repeated.

Segui was hit on the base of the right thumb while attempting to field a ground ball from Jay Gibbons during batting practice. He'll visit a hand specialist today in the Fort Lauderdale area and X-rays will be taken to determine whether Segui broke a bone.

"I think it's just a bruise," manager Mike Hargrove said after the Orioles' 6-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox. "We'll see, but I don't think it's anything serious. It might turn out to be cracked, but I don't anticipate it."

Even if the bone isn't broken, the soreness could keep Segui out of the lineup for an indefinite period.

Segui, a switch-hitter who throws with his left hand, has broken his right thumb twice during his career, most recently in 1999 while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. He also was fielding a ground ball at the time. The same injury occurred three years earlier when he was hit by a pickoff throw.

Gibbons' ball nailed Segui on the same spot, "but it doesn't feel as bad this time," he said.

Segui said the thumb was sore, but he didn't believe the injury was more serious than a bruise.

"It swelled up," he said, "and I couldn't get it in the glove."

Last year, Segui appeared in only 26 games before having surgery on May 21 to repair torn cartilage and an injured tendon in his left wrist. He couldn't bat right-handed, and the Orioles kept him on the 60-day disabled list.

Segui is batting .407 with one home run this spring. Hargrove has been using him occasionally at first base rather than exclusively as the designated hitter.

Still unable to acquire an impact hitter for the middle of their lineup, the Orioles are counting on Segui to play a full season. He's appeared in only 108 games since signing a four-year, $28 million contract in December 2000.

Yesterday's injury occurred on the same day that minor-league slugger Jack Cust reported to Fort Lauderdale Stadium and took batting practice. Acquired from the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, Cust was expected to be sent down to Triple-A Ottawa, but could remain with the Orioles if Segui goes on the disabled list.

Cust wants to stay

Cust smacked a few balls over the fence during batting practice.

Cust hit .169 with one home run in 65 at-bats for the Rockies last year, but he hopes to make a stronger impression.

"I think I'm ready to play in the major leagues," Cust said. "It's just a matter of getting at-bats. Last year, they used me in a pinch-hitting role and I wasn't used to that. My swing got a little long, and that wasn't good."

Stephens banged up

Asked earlier in the week how he was feeling, Orioles pitcher John Stephens said, "Everything is getting there."

To be more specific would take up too much time.

Since arriving at camp, Stephens has received treatment on his surgically repaired foot, a pulled groin muscle and a sore knee.

Stephens said he hasn't experienced much pain in the foot, which he fractured, and he continues to build strength.

"X-rays show that the bone is all healed," he said.

Stephens was scratched from a game earlier this month after pulling his right groin muscle during drills at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. He's also been wearing an elastic support on his right knee when it's not wrapped in ice.

"I think that was just from overcompensating a little bit for my foot. I tried to do a little too much, and things around it started hurting," he said.

Making his second appearance yesterday, Stephens allowed a three-run homer to Shea Hillenbrand in the fifth inning. He threw two scoreless innings in his spring debut.

Stephens, who made his major-league debut July 30 in Tampa, is expected to begin the season at Ottawa. The Orioles have cut 14 players in camp, including pitchers Sean Douglass and Matt Riley, but Stephens remains with the team.

"I'm still listed up there," he said, motioning toward a bulletin board, "so that's a good thing."

Around the horn

Left-handed reliever Eric DuBose was scheduled to pitch yesterday but didn't make the trip. DuBose said his exclusion had nothing to do with an injury. ... Rodrigo Lopez also will make a start in Sarasota during his next turn, as the Orioles attempt to build up innings for their pitchers. Lopez's wife, Romy, gave birth to the couple's first child on Friday. Rodrigo Gael Lopez was born at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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