An injury picture that has been bleak for much of the season is getting better by the day for the Orioles, who learned that Jason Grimsley might be available in their bullpen in about a month.
Grimsley was expected to be out for the season after having ligament-reconstruction surgery, more commonly known as Tommy John surgery, on his right elbow in October. However, he will rejoin his teammates today and begin throwing off the mound under the guidance of pitching coach Ray Miller.
Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said Grimsley will pitch several bullpen sessions and then likely go on a rehab assignment.
"He's going to throw four or five times on the side and it looks like we may be able to send him out on a rehab," Beattie said. "When you have Tommy John, you have to get your velocity back. You have to get your command back. It will take a little bit of time."
Grimsley's quick recovery has come as a huge surprise to the club, which didn't expect have to be available this season.
"A reliever might be a little different, but generally you talk about 18 months before somebody is effective again," Beattie said. "[Erik] Bedard came back in a little more than a year. [Grimsley's] probably pushing a little bit harder than typical rehab, but he says it feels very, very good. He feels like he is almost 100 percent so far."
Grimsley's rehabilitation has been supervised by Dr. Timothy Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds' medical director who performed the surgery. Grimsley hasn't been looked at by Orioles team doctors, but he has been in contact with Beattie. Grimsley told Beattie that his fastball has been in the high 80s and he hasn't even needed to ice the elbow or take painkillers after throwing.
"I look forward to tomorrow to see how it is," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "It's going to be a plus for us, but I don't know when he's going to be ready to throw in a game situation. Tomorrow [when he throws] will be the telltale sign."
Grimsley, 37, joined the Orioles last June in a trade with the Kansas City Royals for pitching prospect Denny Bautista. He went 2-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 41 games last year, but he pitched in pain throughout the season.
In other injury news, center fielder Luis Matos remained with Double-A Bowie on his rehabilitation assignment. Beattie said Matos, who has been out since May 11 after breaking his right ring finger, probably will be activated tomorrow or Monday.
"We're looking at probably Monday, but we're going to take the next couple of days and see how he's doing," Beattie said. "It could be sooner. There's a left-hander [the Rockies' Jeff Francis] throwing on Sunday, so ... that's the door that could be open."
Saunders' comeback stalls
Left-hander Tony Saunders, the Glen Burnie High graduate who was attempting to resuscitate his career with the Orioles after twice breaking his pitching arm, has a sore left arm that has interrupted his comeback. This latest ailment might shut down Saunders for the rest of the season.
"He's frustrated, but he's OK," said David Stockstill, the Orioles' director of minor league operations. "We're getting it checked out. We don't know yet for sure what's going to happen. He's got some more doctors to see."
Saunders, who signed a minor league deal in the offseason, was at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., where he previously has been hospitalized because of back spasms. He missed a month of throwing because of the spasms.
Around the horn
The Orioles were finally able to get back the ball that Jeff Fiorentino hit against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 20 for his first major league home run. The fan who caught the ball originally turned down the club's exchange offer, wanting to negotiate personally with the rookie outfielder, who has been optioned back to Single-A Frederick. The Orioles will get the ball to Fiorentino next week. ... Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora, Rodrigo Lopez, Jorge Julio and Geronimo Gil will appear at Patterson Park today from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. for LatinoFest2005.