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Injured Ainsworth Mulls Next Move

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2005; Page D05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 15 -- Tests on Kurt Ainsworth's right shoulder revealed partial tears in the rotator cuff and the labrum in addition to a divot found in the shoulder socket, which will keep the Baltimore Orioles pitcher out at least a month and a half and possibly the season if it is determined surgery is the best option.

Ainsworth will rest for 10 days and then start a gradual throwing program. If his shoulder does not respond, surgery would be needed, meaning he would miss the entire season.

Ainsworth, Orioles
Ainsworth, Orioles
Tests on Kurt Ainsworth's right shoulder revealed partial tears in the rotator cuff and the labrum in addition to a divot found in the shoulder socket. (Luis M. Alvarez - AP)

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Ainsworth, 26, had said he'd consider retirement if tests showed the shoulder injury was serious; he was in Baltimore on Tuesday and not available to comment. Agent Scott Parker did not return a phone call.

"When he comes back down here we'll have a conversation with him," Orioles Executive Vice President Jim Beattie said. "The player will likely direct this a little bit more with how comfortable he feels with taking the time to do this or whether he wants to have the surgery. We'll have to talk to Kurt about this."

Ainsworth, a first-round draft pick, was the top prospect acquired when the Orioles traded Sidney Ponson to the San Francisco Giants. He was expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation but was ineffective on Friday against the Florida Marlins -- allowing five runs in two innings -- and afterward complained of shoulder pain.

Pitching coach Ray Miller said Ainsworth had reported occasional pain in the shoulder this spring. The team thought Ainsworth's injury was likely just inflammation, though Beattie said the team wasn't necessarily surprised with the news.

"He was certainly complaining about a variety of symptoms," Beattie said. "So it's hard to say."

Orioles officials privately had thought Ainsworth's talk of retirement had been said out of frustration. Ainsworth's distress stems from years of arm troubles. The righty missed the entire 1997 season at Louisiana State following elbow reconstruction surgery. In 2003 Ainsworth missed a significant amount of time with the Giants with a stress fracture in his shoulder. Last year Ainsworth's season ended after arthroscopic elbow surgery.

"It's something that I will have to wait and see what the doctor says," Ainsworth said Sunday. "I am going to go in there optimistic, hoping it is just some sort of inflammation. I am going to go back and reassess everything because this sure hasn't been a fun past couple of years . . . If I feel like I can't get back to the same level I did before, then maybe I would consider doing something else."

Assistant trainer Brian Ebel said it is uncertain how Ainsworth's shoulder might respond to a throwing program.

"There are things that sometimes do heal without surgery," Ebel said. "You want to try a conservative rehab first."

The program will involve throwing on flat ground first and then slowly advancing to throwing off a mound. If Ainsworth doesn't respond, then his progress to throwing off a mound could take longer, meaning he could miss up to three months even without having surgery. It appears likely that Ainsworth won't be counted upon by the Orioles this season.

Ainsworth began last season in the rotation but was sent to Class AAA Ottawa after compiling a 0-1 record with a 9.68 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. Ainsworth pitched just 10 2/3 innings in the minors before undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove fluid from his elbow. This spring Ainsworth had yielded five runs in three innings.

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