It now appears that Baltimore Orioles reliever Don Aase will begin this season where he finished the last one -- on the disabled list. Surgery on his shoulder last summer found that damage was more severe than first announced, and the Orioles have no idea when he will be 100 percent.
Meanwhile, former Orioles star Jim Palmer said this week he had accepted team owner Edward Bennett Williams' invitation to be a part-time instructor during spring training.
Aase had a club-record 34 saves in 1986, but had only two last year when he spent most of his time on the disabled list. He had surgery to repair damage in his right shoulder in June, and at the time, confidently predicted he'd be ready for spring training.
He repeated those predictions again last December, but since the Orioles began their winter throwing program last month he has been able to do about half the work of his teammates.
"It doesn't look like he's going to be ready," said Coach Elrod Hendricks.
General Manager Roland Hemond said: "I told him I wasn't even going to ask how he felt. He's going to get that every time he turns around. In a situation like that, I plan on not having him. Then if we do, I'll be surprised."
The shoulder injury is the latest in a long line of problems that has plagued his career. He insists he doesn't feel sorry for himself, but, if there ever was a player who has a right to, it's him.
After an injury to his right elbow almost ended his career in the early 1980s, he's now threatened by a shoulder injury. All that has put him on the disabled list for about a third of his 10 major league seasons -- 596 days and counting.
"I'm handling it better than I have in the past," he said. "I know what to expect. I also know I have to be patient. They tell me I'm right on schedule, so I feel like I'll be back pretty quickly."
The Orioles hope their bullpen will be transformed from a huge weakness to a strength with Aase and Tom Niedenfuer as short men, and Mark Williamson and Dave Schmidt the middle men.
Palmer had always declined Williams' spring training invitations, saying he had other commitments, most often with ABC. But friends say he didn't believe General Manager Hank Peters and/or former pitching coach Ray Miller wanted him around.
With Hemond now running the Orioles and Herm Starrette, an old friend, serving as pitching coach, Palmer feels welcomed back. He has been throwing with the other Oriole pitchers to get his arm back in shape.
One day last week, he felt so good, he said: "Well, I found the secret. Everyone should take four years off then try to come back. That's how well I'm throwing."
His former catcher, Rick Dempsey, 38, will train with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a nonroster player.