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Newhan Back on the Diamond

By Craig Heist

David Newhan knew all along he would be activated from the disabled list before the season ended, but he probably didn't envision getting as much playing time as he has during his first week back with the Orioles.

Manager Sam Perlozzo had hoped to give Newhan a few more rehabilitation starts before bringing him back to the parent club. However, Perlozzo had no choice after Jeff Conine was traded to the Phillies the Orioles outfield was left a bit thin.

The situation became worse when centerfielder Corey Patterson sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder making a catch while banging into the wall last Tuesday in Arlington against the Rangers. Patterson hasn't played since and isn't expected until this week at the earliest.

Newhan had been on the disabled list since fracturing his right fibula attempting to steal a base against the Angels on April 17. The road back has been a long journey for him, but now he is back and ready to try to finish up the season strong.

"The ankle feels great," Newhan said. "During my rehab I was very patient with it. We took it slow. I went five innings, then took a day off, five innings, then took another day off and then went back-to-back days. Eventually, I played nine innings, and it felt good enough to get back here. It feels good. I am stealing bases, moving great in the outfield, and it was just a matter of getting back to baseball shape, getting the timing and the eyes going again."

That was easier said than done. When the injury occurred, Newhan didn't know it was as serious as it was until the doctors looked at it, found a break and the word "surgery" was mentioned.

"No, I had no idea, not really," Newhan said. "I mean coming off the field I didn't know, but anytime you are going to have surgery you know it's serious and it's going to be a long haul.

"It was a long process to work through, and it was a matter of keeping your head on straight and keeping at it. You know you are going to have days where it doesn't feel as good as you want and it's not healing as quick as you want, but you just have to be patient and keep working."

This is not the first time injuries have slowed Newhan's career. He has had a shoulder injury and pulled hamstrings, but nothing was as tough as rehabbing the injury this year. Newhan credits his faith for allowing him to get through it all.

"It's a tough deal," Newhan said. "I think some people never get back and for me to do that, I feel extremely fortunate to work with the people I did. The organization let me go home and work there and of course here with (head trainer Richie Bancells) and (assistant Brian Ebel).

"It was a long road that was tough mentally, but God gives us everything we can handle, and if I couldn't handle this it wouldn't have been on my table, so it's just a matter of working through it and not asking why and moving on. I feel good and I feel 100 percent now, and it's just a matter of getting back to helping the team win games."

While Perlozzo would like to give second baseman Brian Roberts some days off down the stretch, he would also like to see Roberts get more at-bats against left-handed pitching.

"He will have a little nagging thing here or there," Perlozzo said. "But he is pretty tough and he plays through most of the little things that never get to (the press). In the last two weeks, we have a few days off so that's helped.

"He needs to get as much right-handed hitting as he can get to get back to full strength and I think he is starting to show that, he's getting stronger and the arm is coming around. He will be 100 percent coming out of the chute next year."

Roberts got most of the night off Friday against Oakland right-hander Joe Blanton. Chris Gomez started at second base and Roberts made a pinch-hitting appearance later in the game.

Miguel Tejada entered this week having played in 1,054 consecutive games. He served as the designated hitter against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, the 10th time he has done so this year.

It is all part of Perlozzo's plan to try to give his shortstop some down time while keeping his bat in the lineup. Tejada is hitting .336 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs while slugging .519.

After Sunday's game Tejada was tied with Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki for the American League lead in hits with 183. He needs 29 hits to break Cal Ripken's club record of 211.

Tejada has had two, 200-hit seasons in his career. He had 204 in 2002 with the Athletics and in his first year with the Orioles in 2004, he tallied 203.

Last season, Hayden Penn made eight starts for the Orioles going 3-2 with a 6.34 ERA. At times he showed flashes that he belongs and at other times he looked overmatched. Yet, when a 21-year-old who throws in the high-90s shows promise, it's enough to get any fan excited.

Earlier this year, Penn was scheduled to get his first start of the season for the Birds in May when he came down with appendicitis the night before. He spent months working his way back into shape, and he notched a 7-4 record and a 2.26 ERA for Triple-A Ottawa.

Sunday against the Athletics, Penn's first start of the year was a disaster. He gave up eight runs on eight hits in just two-thirds of an inning, including a grand slam to first baseman Dan Johnson.

Penn will most likely get another start against the Yankees this weekend at Camden Yards. Let's hope some of Adam Loewen's luck against the Yankees rubs off on him.

Just when baseball fans think they've seen it all, something new happens.

Case in point: last weekend at RFK Stadium. The Nationals are 20 games under .500 and could just about pack it in. However, they came from behind to win four straight games after being down by two runs or more in the eighth inning each time. They did it once against the Phillies and then swept the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend.

Issue 1.20: Septmeber 7, 2006