Albers picks rehab, eyes return in '08

The Baltimore Sun

Orioles reliever Matt Albers has decided to forgo surgery on his right shoulder and attempt a rehabilitation program that would allow him to pitch this season with a torn labrum.

Albers made the decision after meeting yesterday with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

Andrews provided a second opinion for Albers, who stated his desire before Tuesday's game at Camden Yards to avoid surgery. Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens earlier made the same recommendation as Andrews.

By rehabilitating the torn cartilage, Albers could pitch again by late August or early September. Surgery likely would have kept him out for eight to 10 months.

"I think it's just the prudent course," team president Andy MacPhail said.

"You give him the opportunity to rehab it and see how it comes along. If that doesn't work, you can always go to surgery. And I think the calendar works with us to the degree that we don't necessarily have to be losing a lot of time by taking the conservative approach."

Albers left his June 25 start against the Chicago Cubs after facing only five batters. He was a late replacement for scheduled starter Brian Burres, who was scratched with a stomach ailment.

Albers said he felt pain in his shoulder while throwing a curveball to leadoff hitter Eric Patterson.

Spring setback

The Federal Aviation Administration has rejected the city of Fort Lauderdale's petition to continue zoning the property that houses the Orioles' spring training facility as recreational, which would make it exempt from a $1.3 million contribution to the airport fund.

The Orioles hoped to tear down and rebuild Fort Lauderdale Stadium, but they needed FAA approval because it sits on executive airport land.

In the past, they've paid between $70,000 and $120,000 to the fund, but the FAA currently deems the $1.3 million figure as fair market value for the property.

Kirk Shaffer, the associate administrator for airports, sent a letter to Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas yesterday stating that the airport land was deeded to the city for "public airport purposes and only airport purposes."

The Orioles are expected to remain in Fort Lauderdale next spring, but they could decline to exercise the option in their agreement in 2010 and relocate to another Florida-based facility.

Indian River County officials have a draft agreement outlining future plans for a team, reportedly the Orioles, to replace the Los Angeles Dodgers in Vero Beach. The Dodgers have until July 15 to give written confirmation to the county that they're leaving for Glendale, Ariz., next year.

Matusz unsigned

The Orioles had hoped to announce the signing of left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz, their first selection in last month's draft, during the current homestand, but that now appears unlikely.

Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan said yesterday that a deal with the University of San Diego pitcher isn't imminent.

"There aren't any changes," Jordan said. "Negotiations are ongoing. We haven't made as much progress as we thought. We're just going to have to wait it out a little bit."

The Orioles have until Aug. 15 to sign Matusz before losing his rights, though team officials have said they don't expect the deadline to become an issue.

The club has signed 27 of its 50 picks and is close to adding Nathan Moreau, a left-hander from the University of Georgia who was chosen in the 11th round.

Matusz, shortstop Greg Miclat (fifth round), pitcher Robert Bundy (eighth) and third baseman Chris Herrmann (10th) are the remaining unsigned picks in the first 10 rounds.

Asked about Miclat, the University of Virginia shortstop, Jordan said: "We've got a lot of ground to cover on that one. It's just the nature of the beast right now. It takes longer than you want."

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