- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Baltimore Orioles right-hander Scott Erickson will have shoulder surgery and probably will be sidelined for the entire 2003 season.
Erickson, 35, hopes to return by September in what will be the final season of a five-year contract. The 12-year veteran plans to have Dr. Lewis Yocum perform the operation to repair a torn labrum late next week.
"It's important to fix it as soon as possible," Erickson said yesterday.
Although the Orioles put out a news release saying Erickson "will be sidelined for the 2003 season," he said he intends to pitch again this year.
Erickson missed the entire 2001 season after elbow ligament surgery in August2000. He returned last year as the Orioles' opening day starter, but went 5-12 with a 5.55 ERA and did not pitch after Aug.31.
Erickson began to feel pain in his shoulder toward the end of the season, and an MRI during the winter revealed the labrum tear. Erickson opted to rehabilitate the shoulder instead of having surgery.
The pitcher said he felt fine early in camp, but the shoulder worsened as time went on.
"It's just weakening by the day," he said. "It's not tremendously painful right now, but I can tell it's not going to get better or be a non-factor."
Erickson was one of four pitchers vying for the final two spots in the Orioles' starting rotation.
"We've had lots of questions about what we were going to do with all our starting pitching," Orioles vice president Jim Beattie said. "But in the back of our mind, this was an eventuality we were trying to prepare for … because it wasn't clear-cut that the rehab was going to strengthen the shoulder."
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove lined up his rotation knowing there was a decent chance that Erickson would need surgery before Opening Day.
"I don't think we expected it to happen, but we certainly were aware of the fact that it was a possibility," Hargrove said, "and so it's not completely surprising that it has."
Beattie said the Orioles won't rush to get another starting pitcher, but would listen to offers.
"I'll keep trying to add if we can," he said. "Starting pitching and whatever offensive help are things we will continue to take a look at through spring training."
Except for the strike-shortened 1994 season, Erickson pitched in at least 200 innings in every season from 1991 to 1999. But injuries have played a major role in cutting back his workload ever since; he started the 2000 season on the disabled list after surgery in March to remove bone chips from his elbow, then had his season cut short by the ligament-replacement surgery.
"It's very strange to all of a sudden have all these things kind of go at one time, but who's to say if one thing didn't lead to another?" he said. "Last year I figured I wasn't throwing with the velocity I thought I could, so I tried to lift more to get stronger and throw harder. That's probably what caused the tear in the shoulder."
Erickson, who tossed a no-hitter with the Minnesota Twins in 1994, hoped to return to the form that enabled him to reel off five straight winning seasons following his arrival in Baltimore in 1995.
Instead, he's left pondering a career that has taken a decided turn for the worse.
"I'm seriously irritated. This is the last thing I wanted," he said. "I kind of wasted the last three years, as it is. This is something I've been doing my whole life since I was 5, 6 years old. The last thing I want to do is sit here and not be able to do it."
Hentgen makes pitch
He's got a Cy Young Award on the shelf and 107 major league wins, yet Pat Hentgen is taking nothing for granted this spring training.
The right-hander is among three pitchers vying to fill out the final two spots in the Orioles' starting rotation. He's got more experience than the rest of the competition, but that won't matter if he doesn't perform well.
"Every time you go out there, you're competing. The competition at this level is extremely intense, whether you're 34 or 24, in your 12th year or your second year," Hentgen said.
Hentgen allowed one run and three hits in two innings yesterday in the Orioles' 7-6 exhibition victory over Florida. It could have been worse; he escaped without too much damage after the Marlins loaded the bases with no outs in the third inning.
"Getting out of there with only one run, that was pretty good," he said.
Upon returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery last September, Hentgen pitched well enough to earn another contract with the Orioles.
He proved he still has some zip in his arm, even though his numbers over four starts were humbling: 0-4 with a 7.77 ERA.
"Pitching felt good, but the results were really cruddy," he acknowledged.
Five sign contracts
The Orioles signed five players to one-year contracts, leaving only seven players on the 39-man roster without deals. Those signed were: RHP Travis Driskill, 3B Jose Leon, SS Ed Rogers and OFs Luis Matos and Chris Richard.
Orioles beat Marlins
The Orioles had a moment of silence for Steve Bechler before opening their home exhibition schedule yesterday by beating the Florida Marlins 7-6.
Before the national anthem, fans at Fort Lauderdale Stadium were asked to stand silent in remembrance of Bechler, the pitcher who collapsed during a spring training workout on Feb.16 and died the next day of heatstroke.
Baltimore then sent Omar Daal to the mound, and the left-hander threw two scoreless innings in his Orioles debut. Daal, who pitched last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, did not allow a hit and struck out two.
He left with a 3-0 lead, but the Marlins used a five-run seventh inning against pitching prospect Mike Paradis to go up 6-3.
The Orioles rallied with a four-run eighth inning, capped by Eli Whiteside's two-run single off Rick Croushore.

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