- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. When most major league pitchers take the mound during spring training, they generally are not concerned with results but rather with how well they throw. If they happen to leave the game down a few runs, it's of no real consequence because everybody knows games in March don't mean a thing.
Then there's Scott Erickson, as intense a competitor as there is in baseball, a pitcher who treats every outing as if it were Game 7 of the World Series.
Which is why the Baltimore Orioles right-hander wasn't completely satisfied yesterday with his first appearance against an opposing team in 19 months, even though his teammates and coaches were.
"I expected a little better," Erickson said after allowing two runs and five hits in three innings in the Orioles' 7-5 loss to the New York Mets. "I thought I could shut them out for three [innings]. That's what you've got to shoot for. You can't go out there expecting to give up three or four runs."
Erickson's first competitive start since July 25, 2000 he underwent ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow two weeks later came and went without incident, which is what the Orioles were looking for from a 34-year-old coming off that procedure.
"It was his first outing competitively in over a year," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I thought he was good."
Using his full assortment of pitches two-seam fastball, slider and a newfound changeup Erickson threw 48 pitches, 28 for strikes, and became the first Baltimore pitcher to go three innings this spring. He allowed two singles and a walk in the first inning, then gave up another two hits and a run in the second before retiring six of the last seven batters he faced.
And like most veteran pitchers who come back from Tommy John surgery, Erickson has had to make minor alterations to his repertoire, such as adding a changeup that was fairly effective yesterday.
"He got some outs with his changeup, which was big for him," pitching coach Mark Wiley said, "because that wasn't really a big pitch for him before."
Erickson's 19 months of rehab are about the average for pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery, though he briefly thought he could trim the recovery time by five months. He told the Orioles he was ready to start last season's finale at Camden Yards, but the team didn't want to risk anything at that point.
Just like they didn't want to push him too hard yesterday despite Erickson's desires.
"There's a guy who probably wanted to pitch no-hit, shutout ball and go for six innings," catcher Brook Fordyce said. "I think he wanted to be his exact self from before. But it was a great outing for me."
Erickson has set his sights on starting Opening Day, April 1 against the New York Yankees. And if you were to ask him, he probably would say his goal is to pitch a complete-game shutout against the four-time defending American League champs, no matter how serious his surgery was.
"I'm not worried about a thing," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, there was no surgery. I just wasted two years."
Notes Less-publicized than Erickson's outing yesterday were the first appearances of the spring by Calvin Maduro and Matt Riley. Riley also is coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Maduro, whom Hargrove says has "a leg up" in the competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, threw three highly effective innings in relief of Erickson, allowing one run and one hit against the Mets.
Riley, making his first game appearance since undergoing surgery on his left elbow in September 2000, was not as productive, giving up four runs (three earned) and three hits in one inning, though Hargrove remained generally pleased with what he saw from the 22-year-old.
"When Matt was down [in the strike zone], he was golden," Hargrove said. "Every time he got the ball up, he got hammered. That's the way it is with anyone." …
The Orioles suddenly are lacking in middle infielders. Utility player Melvin Mora has yet to play this spring after breaking his left ring finger over the winter. Minor leaguers Ed Rogers and Eddy Garabito remain in the Dominican Republic dealing with visa and birth certificate problems.
Now Brian Roberts is temporarily out with a hyperextended elbow, the origin of which is uncertain. Hargrove said Roberts will be out "a minimum of 2-to-3 more days."
"It came out of nowhere," he said. "Maybe it will go back the same way."


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