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MRI shows Bedard's knee has improved


DETROIT - A magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday showed improvement in Erik Bedard's injured left knee, and the Orioles pitcher will be re-evaluated in a week before the club determines whether he can begin a throwing program.

Team orthopedist Dr. Charles Silberstein examined Bedard, who is on the disabled list with a sprained ligament in the knee.

"The MRI also showed less of a signal in that area," head trainer Richie Bancells said. "It's right where we thought it would be."

Bedard was expected to rejoin the Orioles last night.

Manager Lee Mazzilli said it's too early to determine when Bedard will make his next start, but it appears the left-hander will miss at least two more.

Meanwhile, center fielder Luis Matos visited hand specialist Dr. Mark Deitch yesterday and also received good news.

"Dr. Deitch was very impressed. He said [Matos] was maybe one week ahead of schedule," Bancells said.

"He's been cleared to rejoin the team [today] for baseball activities. We're going to start with some hitting drills and some light throwing, maybe take 20 throws or so. And each day becomes another chance to evaluate."

Nivar in position at second

Ramon Nivar returned to Triple-A Ottawa on Monday after missing 1 1/2 months with a back injury. Four days later, he's in the majors.

"Truthfully," he said, "it surprised me a little bit."

No wonder. But the Orioles needed someone to back up Chris Gomez at second base with Brian Roberts unavailable because of a shoulder injury. And while Nivar is listed as a center fielder, he has experience in the middle infield, which satisfied team officials.

Nivar, 25, was recalled from Ottawa after Thursday's game and given No. 15, which used to belong to another second baseman, Jerry Hairston. He was counted among the reserves last night.

"Before I used to feel more comfortable at second base. Now to me, I feel the same at either center field or second base," said Nivar, acquired from the Texas Rangers in March for pitcher Matt Riley.

"Whatever position they put me, I don't care."

Nivar, who replaced outfielder Jeff Fiorentino on the roster, hasn't been used at second since the injury. "It's something I can always play though," he said, "because I've played the position all my life."

Part of the Rangers' Opening Day roster last year, Nivar is a .213 hitter in 108 major league at-bats.

"I'm working to hopefully take advantage of this new opportunity," he said. "Now I have more experience in respect to how I hit. I've worked a lot on my hitting."

Penn relaxed on road

Though the raucous atmosphere at Fenway Park can unnerve a pitcher, especially one making his second major league start, Hayden Penn said he felt more relaxed Thursday afternoon in Boston than during last Saturday's debut against the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards.

Penn allowed three runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out three. His last batter, Manny Ramirez, struck out on three pitches, and the Orioles gathered around Penn on the mound to congratulate him before the tall right-hander headed to the bench.

"I was just happy that I was starting to get in a groove toward the end, which I can take into my next start," he said.

"I kept us in the game, which I was happy about. That was my goal going into it. I was a lot more comfortable out there. Nerves didn't really bother me. I was just going out there and trying to get outs."

The Red Sox took a 3-1 lead against him in the fourth on Jason Varitek's two-run double. Two walks loaded the bases, but Mark Bellhorn swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play.

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie reserved some praise for Penn, who began the year at Double-A Bowie.

"When you get a kid like Hayden Penn coming up and pitching as well as he did, keeping us in the ballgame, getting out of a bases-loaded situation, that's all these guys deserve. They need a chance to win," Beattie said. "We're going to win more than our share."

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