Ainsworth wants to get going with O's

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It took Kurt Ainsworth less than 48 hours to completely rearrange his life after the San Francisco Giants traded him to the Orioles on Thursday as the centerpiece of a package for pitcher Sidney Ponson.

Ainsworth was with the Giants in Chicago when the deal was made. The right-handed pitcher flew back to San Francisco, where he and his wife packed for Baltimore, all the while tending to their 11-month-old daughter.

"We completely moved out of San Francisco," Ainsworth said. "Did it all in a day."

If Ainsworth, 24, sounds eager to get started with the Orioles, it's hard to blame him. This has been a frustrating year for the former first-round draft pick.

Ainsworth was expected to be a key piece of the Giants' starting rotation this season. But during spring training, he came down with a mysterious injury to his right shoulder.

"I was diagnosed with a sore muscle," he said. "I had a couple MRIs [magnetic resonance imaging], and they supposedly showed nothing. I can't read them, so I don't know. But then, I started pitching and I thought, 'God, this isn't going well.' "

Ainsworth managed in 11 games to go 5-4 with a 3.82 ERA, impressing scouts with his four-pitch arsenal and 93 mph fastball. But on June 3, he went on the disabled list.

The Giants still thought he had a strained muscle, so he tried doing a minor league rehabilitation stint. It got worse instead of better, and then finally, on June 25, he had a CT scan, which showed a one-half centimeter fracture of his right shoulder blade.

"It was kind of relieving to me because I'm not a wimp," he said. "I can throw through a strained muscle, but it wasn't registering. ... They kept telling me how [the fractured scapula] was so rare. They were almost apologizing for missing it for so long."

The Giants eventually learned that Angels pitcher Jarrod Washburn had a fractured blade three years ago. He came back and pitched 193 1/3 innings in 2001 and then went 18-6 last year, helping the Angels beat the Giants in the World Series.

When the Giants said they would be willing to move Ainsworth in a trade for Ponson, the Orioles began doing their own research. Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said trainer Richie Bancells and club physician Dr. Charles Silberstein talked to the Giants' medical staff before pulling off the trade that also brought left-hander Damian Moss and minor league left-hander Ryan Hannaman.

"They talked to the people who knew about Washburn with the Angels, as well," Beattie said. "They felt good and Chick [Silberstein] was saying it should be no problem whatsoever."

Ainsworth, who had elbow-ligament replacement surgery in 1997 at Louisiana State, said he recently had another CT scan that showed the shoulder blade was completely healed.

"There's nothing structurally wrong with my shoulder," he said.

He has been playing catch for the past week, and the Orioles checked him out again yesterday. He should be ready to start another minor league rehabilitation assignment soon.

Beattie said he doesn't want to rush Ainsworth, but Beattie also sees the benefit of letting him pitch for the Orioles in September, if he's ready.

"I'm ready to start pitching today," said Ainsworth, who was assigned Cal Ripken's old locker in the Orioles' clubhouse. "All I've got to do is get my arm in shape. I'm ready to go down [to the minors] for a couple weeks, and I'm in good shape. I want to pitch this year for sure. I think it would be good to get out there, so I can go into spring training knowing this is behind me."

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