When Mike Boddicker tore a finger ligament by gripping the ball too hard on a pitch and reliever Tippy Martinez began having serious, unexplainable dizzy spells, the Baltimore Orioles didn't think their injuries could get any weirder.
That was until today, hours before an 8-3 victory tonight over the Minnesota Twins, when team doctors discovered that infielder Jackie Gutierrez had contracted chicken pox.
Chicken pox in a 24-year-old man?
"It's not common," admitted Orioles team physician Dr. Sheldon Goldgeier.
"This has to be the record for the first month of a season," General Manager Hank Peters said. "You look around, and you say, 'What can happen next?' "
When the game started, the Orioles found themselves in a familiar situation: Very good pitching and very little hitting -- until the seventh inning when Baltimore scored seven times.
The victory was the Orioles' fifth in a row and their third straight that was decided in the final two innings. With a 17-14 record, they are three games above .500 for the first time this season and in fourth place, three games out of first in the American League East.
But that wasn't Gutierrez's major concern.
The chicken pox "could be a problem," Peters said. "Not that it matters now. Everyone has already been exposed who's going to be exposed."
As infielder Rex Hudler was recalled from Rochester before the game, the Orioles had their trainers scurrying about the clubhouse at Memorial Stadium trying to determine if any other players were not immune to chicken pox.
They discovered "a handful" who either haven't had the illness or couldn't remember having had it. Goldgeier said, "It's too late to do anything to protect anyone. We've taken Jackie out of the clubhouse, which is all we can do."
Goldgeier said he diagnosed Gutierrez as having chicken pox only moments after hearing from a family that had a mother and daughter both come down with it. He said there appeared to be a chicken pox epidemic in Baltimore County and said the team would know "in the next two weeks" if other players would contract it.
It's no small matter because Goldgeier said chicken pox in adults is, at best, very uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous. He estimates Gutierrez will be out of action several weeks, and were it to hit a couple of other players, the results could be devastating.
"Jackie felt terrible last night, but he slept a little bit," Goldgeier said. "He's going to be sick for a couple of days."
Gutierrez becomes the fifth Oriole to spend time on the disabled list this season. Besides the problems of Tippy Martinez and Boddicker, there were pitcher Dennis Martinez's sore shoulder and third baseman Floyd Rayford's injured thumb.
Orioles starter Ken Dixon (4-2) was again bothered by the home run ball tonight as Twins designated hitter Roy Smalley hit two and center fielder Kirby Puckett hit his 13th.
The three homers given up by Dixon raised his total to 10 in his last 15 innings at Memorial Stadium, but they were all the runs he allowed this night as the Twins got seven hits and four walks in 7 1/3 innings.
"I had pretty good stuff," Dixon said, "and I did some things better. It's a big team effort because we were behind the whole game and came back to win. Everyone leaves feeling good."
Reliever Nate Snell, who hadn't played in 12 days, pitched the final 1 2/3 innings.
With 13,461 watching, Twins starter John Butcher (0-4) pretty much matched Dixon until the seventh when Cal Ripken got a leadoff single. Ripken's hit was only the third Butcher allowed, but Twins Manager Ray Miller, trying to protect a 2-1 lead, nonetheless decided to give the American League's worst bullpen a chance.
Seven runs, six hits and 11 batters later, the inning ended. Left-handed reliever Juan Agosto got no one out, facing four batters and allowing three hits. Right-hander Roy Smith got three outs, but also allowed Fred Lynn's three-run homer.
It went this way:
After Ripken's single, pinch-hitter Juan Beniquez reached base on an interference call against Twins catcher Mark Salas, the third against Salas this season.
Mike Young lined a single to center to load the bases, and Rayford's two-run, opposite-field double to right scored two to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
Rick Dempsey singled to center for another run, and Miller went for Smith. Alan Wiggins singled to right for another and, after Lee Lacy forced Dempsey at third, Lynn drove in the final three runs with his third homer of the season.
Rayford's hit broke a two-for-19 slump, so he had particular reason to celebrate.
"I've been working hard, and it's nice to get something out of it," he said. "Those kind have been hard to come by. I was just hoping [first baseman Kent] Hrbek wouldn't catch it. Those haven't been falling, so you just have to keep working and coming out at 4 o'clock."
All the Orioles' injury news wasn't bad. Tippy Martinez, on the disabled list since April 2, said his dizzy spells cleared over the weekend, and he threw impressively at batting practice today. He'll throw again Friday, and if he passes that test, will be sent to Class A Hagerstown on rehabilitation assignment.
*Red Sox 8, Angels 5: Reggie Jackson got California off to a rousing start in Anaheim with a two-run first-inning home run that elevated him to sixth place on the all-time list, 537 to Mickey Mantle's 536.
But Boston had a big finish, Bill Buckner's run-scoring single sparking a three-run ninth inning, and the Red Sox tied the New York Yankees for first in the AL East.
Jackson, four days shy of his 40th birthday, hit his towering homer off Roger Clemens. And, in the eighth, Jackson singled to center, tagged up and went to second on Doug DeCinces' long flyout to the right field corner and scored on a double by Ruppert Jones to tie the game, 5-5.
Red Sox Manager John McNamara was ejected when, arguing that Jackson was out on the tag play, McNamara apparently brushed umpire Derryl Cousins.
Winner Clemens (6-0) struck out nine in eight innings.
*White Sox 3, Yankees 2: Ozzie Guillen's two-run triple with two out in the ninth inning in New York completed a three-run rally that won for Chicago.
New York's Bob Shirley took a three-hit shutout into the ninth and had retired 13 consecutive batters when Carlton Fisk and Bobby Bonilla led off with singles. Brian Fisher (1-2) relieved and pinch hitter Jerry Hairston fouled out.
Greg Walker, just off the disabled list, singled for Chicago's first run, Bonilla going to third. Tim Hulett fouled out but Guillen sent Fisher's first pitch to him over the head of left fielder Ken Griffey.
*A's 9, Blue Jays 4: Home runs by Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman and Mike Davis keyed a five-run seventh inning in Oakland that beat Toronto and winless Dave Stieb.
The homers drove starter Stieb, the 1985 American League earned run champion who is 0-5 in 1986, from the mound and gave recently recalled left-hander Curt Young his first victory. Young, in 7 1/3 innings, gave up six hits and struck out six.
*Brewers 9, Mariners 6: In Seattle, Charlie Moore scored three runs and drove in two as Milwaukee broke a three-game losing streak. Dan Plesac (2-1) pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit relief after Juan Nieves was unable to get through the fifth with a 9-3 lead.
Moore reached base five times on two singles, two walks and an error. His two-run single highlighted a four-run Milwaukee fourth that knocked out Mike Moore (2-4).
*Tigers 8, Rangers 2: Chet Lemon, Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans homered in Detroit, backing a five-hitter by Walt Terrell (4-1).
*Royals 5, Indians 0: Mark Gubicza, winless since October, pitched a three-hitter and George Brett drove in three runs to take the all-time team lead in runs batted in -- 993, passing Amos Otis -- as Kansas City won at home over Cleveland.