Mending reliever Mike Fetters might be weeks from returning to the mound, but if nothing else, the grinning right-hander brightened the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse upon his arrival today.

Fetters underwent elbow surgery June 22 in Los Angeles, and he returns a lighter man. He no longer has an arm full of chips and spurs, nor is he carrying the emotional weight that stemmed from those arm problems.

"Now maybe I can go out there and pitch without any pain," Fetters said in between greeting his teammates. "I don't have any doubts in the back of my mind that this pitch is going to hurt and that pitch is going to hurt. Now if I get beat up, it's because I ain't good enough anymore."

Manager Ray Miller said Fetters will throw on the side Sunday and be evaluated afterward. A rehabilitation assignment is probable.

Fetters, a free agent acquisition in the offseason, has been throwing off the mound for a week, and his elbow seems sound. But he is not yet in game condition.

"It's just a matter of getting back into pitching shape," Fetters said. "I've done all the rehab I can do for my elbow. I need to get my arm strength and stamina back to be able to go out on the mound and compete, and hopefully get somebody out.

"That wasn't a really easy task before I went and had surgery," he added with a laugh.

Fetters, 34, endured rough outings before going on the disabled list June 7. In 23 innings spanning 20 appearances, he is 1-0 with a 5.48 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 14 walks and has yielded five homers.

"It's been a long process," said Fetters, who went 2-8 in 60 appearances last year with Oakland and Anaheim. "It seems longer than it has been, but I'm just glad it's over with. . . . I'm probably throwing like a sixth-grader, but it's a start."

For Starters, No Surhoff

Miller did not start American League hits leader B.J. Surhoff tonight but got him into the game to extend Surhoff's streak to 272 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors. Miller had wanted to rest Surhoff on the recent road trip but didn't because of injuries to other players. Before tonight, Surhoff had four hits in his last 26 at-bats.