Notes: Shuey almost ready after injury
Thirty-six-year-old reliever looking for rebirth with Birds
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Paul Shuey ambled into the clubhouse without a brace and without a limp on Tuesday afternoon, hours before the Orioles would take the field for their game in Port St. Lucie. Shuey said that he is almost fully recovered from a strained right plantaris muscle [in his foot] that has kept him off the mound for more than a week.
"It's coming real quick right now," he said. "I went for basically a week and felt like I made no progress, and then over the last two or three days, [it's been better]. It was nice having that off-day. I felt good the day before the off-day, and I was throwing in the cages a little bit, trying to loosen it up. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time in the pool, running."
Shuey, who injured himself on March 9, had been forced to wear a protective walking boot all the way through Sunday. He said that his leg started to loosen up a little bit Sunday and that he hasn't put the boot back in since. Shuey's injury was initially diagnosed as a strained Achilles tendon, but an MRI exam helped clear that up.
That was a big relief to Shuey, who has had four hip surgeries in an effort to keep his career alive. If his Achilles had been injured, he may have needed even more rest and rehabilitation. Now, he's almost ready to go again.
"Normally, with MRIs, I'm a little questionable about the value," he said about the precautionary exam. "Obviously, it can be very valuable, but to me, if it's hurt, let's just treat it and see what happens. But it was nice this time to find out that it wasn't the Achilles. It's the plantaris tendon, or whatever, that's on the inside.
"Knowing that, I felt we've got a chance at coming back quicker than if it was the Achilles itself."
Shuey, an eight-year veteran, was forced into an early retirement by his hip condition. The right-hander hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2003, but his latest operation helped make a comeback possible. Shuey had a hip resurfacing procedure done in Canada last July that is as yet unapproved in the United States.
The operation coated the ball of his hip joint in a Swiss metal, and Shuey's been able to throw the ball at a high velocity without experiencing any pain. He looked good in the early days of camp, but knew that he had an uphill battle toward convincing Baltimore's decision-makers to give him a spot on the Opening Day roster.
And then came the injury, which may have all but taken him out of the mix. Shuey has said that he's willing to pitch at Triple-A Norfolk, but he really had his hopes set on breaking camp with the Orioles.
"That's why my head dropped. I knew, in this camp, that I needed 10 innings to get in a real nice groove of throwing to have a good shot at making the squad," he said. "That's still, to me, a longshot at this point -- to be able to get enough innings to be in a good spot and create a window. I don't know if that's going to be there, but at least I'm feeling good. I'm happy just to be feeling good and able to pitch again."
Night games: The Orioles had their only scheduled night game of the spring on Tuesday, but constant rain jeopardized whether they'd be able to play. Baltimore didn't play night games in either 2005 or 2006.
First baseman Kevin Millar, who was scheduled to make the trip as a backup, said there's really no substitute for playing night games and learning to judge the ball against the glaring backdrop of the lights.
"I don't remember what we did last year, but this is the first time in my memory where I've only gotten one night game during the spring," he said. "This is what we've been waiting for, playing the games at night and under the lights. That's why spring is usually hard to get used to, because you're at the park in the morning and playing during the day.
"We won't mind taking batting practice at 5 o'clock and hitting under the lights again."
One day after their only off-day of the spring, virtually all of Baltimore's regulars were expected to make the trip to Port St. Lucie. The Orioles had a star-studded starting lineup and a bench that featured several veterans. Millar and Jay Gibbons, among others, were listed as reserves on the team's daily lineup card.
On the road again: The Orioles are in perhaps their toughest stretch of the spring. Baltimore has road games in five of the next six days -- and in Saturday's lone exception, there's a split-squad game in Port St. Lucie.
The O's will play their last home game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium next Wednesday. That will wrap up the Florida portion of Spring Training, and Baltimore will play three games against the Nationals in three different locations. The exhibition schedule will end with a game March 31 in Washington's RFK Stadium.
Coming up: The Orioles will play the Cardinals Wednesday in Jupiter. Adam Loewen will be making his fourth spring start for Baltimore. So far, he has a 1-1 record and a 2.25 ERA with 13 strikeouts in eight innings.
Quotable: "I can still tell that it's there, but it's something I can stretch now and work. Now, it's time to find what the new timeline is." -- Shuey, on his accelerated timetable for getting back on the mound
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.