- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2001

SEATTLE Baltimore Orioles ace Pat Hentgen, out since May 16 with an elbow injury, will remain sidelined for at least four to six weeks, possibly longer after an examination yesterday confirmed he has a sprained ligament in his throwing arm.

Hentgen, 32, was examined in Birmingham, Ala., by orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, who found a sprained elbow ligament along with the sprained flexor tendon originally revealed by the Orioles last week.

The timetable on Hentgen's return, originally thought to be a week or two, is unclear, though Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said he does not expect the right-hander to be back in uniform until after the All-Star break in July.

"This is going to be a long-term thing more than a short-term one," Hargrove said before last night's late game against the Seattle Mariners. "We want to make sure he's healthy and ready to go and doesn't risk further injury by rushing this thing."

Both Hargrove and trainer Richie Bancells said they do not expect Hentgen's injury to be season-ending.

"It's just a situation that has to be dealt with and takes some time," Bancells said. "But as far as severity, no, he's not in a severe injury situation."

Hentgen, who signed a two-year, $9.6 million contract with the Orioles last December, first felt a twinge in his elbow after throwing a curveball early in his May 16 start against the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards. He stayed in the game, pitching seven innings and recording a win to up his record to 2-3.

The Orioles had him skip one start, then were forced to place him on the 15-day disabled list after he was twice unable to complete bullpen throwing sessions last week. A team-performed magnetic resonance imaging test revealed a sprained flexor tendon in the elbow, though it is now clear he had already sprained the elbow ligament and the tendinitis was a byproduct of that.

A 10-year veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays before signing a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals last year, Hentgen missed the last two months of the 1992 season with an elbow ligament injury and the final month of the 1998 season with shoulder tendinitis.

Yesterday's examination revealed no new damage to the elbow, and there is no sign of a tear.

Hentgen, who returned to his home in Detroit but will rejoin the team next week in New York, will go through a strengthening program for the next two weeks, then will begin light throwing. At best, he could be pitching again in 4-6 weeks, which would place his return somewhere around the All-Star break.

Rookie Josh Towers has taken Hentgen's place in the Orioles' rotation and will remain there. In his first major-league start on Monday, the right-hander allowed two runs in seven innings and got a no-decision in a 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

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