Six days into spring training, the Baltimore Orioles already have an injury problem, and not a small one.

Third baseman/catcher Floyd Rayford, the Orioles' leading hitter last season, may need surgery to remove a bone chip in his left wrist and could be sidelined between two weeks and a month.

If he has the surgery, he may miss about half the spring training games and, worse, doctors have told him the wrist would be tender "from two to three months," Rayford said.

He isn't certain how he suffered the injury and didn't even know he had a problem until he put on the catcher's gear last weekend.

He said today he can swing a bat and play third base with no problem, but that certain motions while wearing a catcher's mitt give him problems. He had wanted to avoid the surgery, but after today's workout, he said the wrist had gotten no better.

"I'm going to give it another day or two, and if it's not better, they're going to have to take it out," he said. "When I flex my wrist, it really hurts, and it's not getting any better."

He has been catching with the wrist heavily taped, but the last two days even that has not helped.

The injury would be a blow to the Orioles in several ways. First, Rayford can play third base and catcher and do both well. Second, he hit a team-high .306 last season, with 18 homers and 48 RBI in 359 at bats.

He had only 16 at bats the first two months of last season, but became Manager Earl Weaver's starting third baseman July 24 and hit .314 with 15 homers and 38 RBI the rest of the season.

His 18 homers and 48 RBI in 359 at bats project to a 28-homer, 74-RBI season for 550 at bats, which is what he figured to get this season.