Baltimore Orioles reliever Mike Fetters had bone chips and spurs removed from his right elbow last week and has begun a rehabilitation program that Fetters hopes will allow him to rejoin the Orioles by early August.

But as Fetters looks back on the ordeal that landed him on the disabled list June 7, he realizes that the surgery was probably inevitable, even though he tried to pitch through the injury.

"It felt good all spring and through April," Fetters said from his home in Gilbert, Ariz. "But starting in May, I knew something was wrong."

Fetters, a 34-year-old right-hander whom the Orioles signed as a free agent this winter for $750,000, had a 4.26 earned run average in April, a 6.48 ERA in May and a 9.00 ERA in two appearances in June. He said the Orioles' 10-6 loss at Seattle on May 31, when he was left in the game for 2 2/3 innings and threw 66 pitches, put his injured elbow "over the top."

His final appearance was on June 6, when he gave up two earned runs in one inning in an 11-7 loss to the Phillies. After the game, he informed the Orioles of the pain in his elbow. The next day he was placed on the disabled list.

"I don't know how I ever got out of that Phillies game. It was killing me," he said. "It got to the point where I knew I couldn't pitch. I was embarrassing myself out there. It was hard for me to swallow. . . . But I'm happy it's finally over. Maybe now I can pitch pain-free and get back to where I was."

An Explanation

In the ongoing search for the source of Scott Erickson's mysterious struggles, Manager Ray Miller has hit upon a theory: He believes Erickson's quest to prevent runners from stealing bases may have affected his mechanics and taken the bite out of his sinker.

Erickson has improved his average time to home plate from about 1.4 seconds last year to about 1.1 seconds this year. It has helped him go from being among the league's worst at holding runners on base to being among the league's best. Of course, the presence of Gold Glove catcher Charles Johnson also helps.

"When you look at it from a common-sense standpoint, and ask what's the difference between this year and last year [when Erickson won 16 games], well, he's three-tenths of a second quicker to home plate," Miller said. "That has to change the mechanics."

Erickson, who is 3-8 with a 6.66 ERA this season, has been comparing tape of his mechanics last year vs. this year.

"He wanted to have a little more control of the running game by trying to be quicker, which is fine," Miller said. "My argument is, if his ball is sinking good enough, there won't be so many people on base."

Extra Bases

Injured second baseman Delino DeShields (hamstring) was scheduled to begin a running program today, and Miller said he hopes to be able to activate DeShields on July 6 when he is eligible to come off the disabled list. . . . The Orioles estimate 4,000 fans came to Farragut Square in downtown Washington on June 23 to meet Orioles players and coaches at the Orioles D.C. Summer FanFest.