-- Only a week into their new jobs as the Baltimore Orioles' front-office tandem, Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan were hit with their first injury crisis when the team announced veteran right-hander Scott Erickson has a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder.

Erickson, 34, will not undergo surgery, but instead will begin a rehabilitation program that the Orioles hope will have him ready by spring training.

"Whether it will be problematic for next year probably won't be known until he goes to spring training and see how it feels when he gets in his throwing program," said Beattie, the team's new executive vice president of baseball operations.

Erickson insisted he was physically fine late last season, even as the team shut him down for good in September with a 5-12 record and 5.55 ERA. However, a consultation this month with physician Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles revealed the tear, which was confirmed in an MRI exam.

Erickson, who will make $6.6 million next season in the final year of a five-year contract, had been the subject of trade discussions this winter, most notably with the New York Mets concerning shortstop Rey Ordonez. However, the latest injury makes him virtually untradeable.

Orioles Notes: The team announced it will reassign farm director Don Buford to another position in the organization, and Beattie said he and Flanagan have a long list of candidates to begin interviewing.

The team will retain scouting director Tony DiMacio and special assistant Ed Kenney, although their precise roles may be restructured as part of the organization's overhaul. Special assistant Danny Garcia was not retained. . . .

Beattie and Flanagan will lead an eight-person contingent to Nashville's Opryland Hotel on Friday for baseball's annual winter meetings. High on the Orioles' agenda are finding a shortstop and a power hitter. The Orioles are believed to be among the leading suitors for all-star catcher Ivan Rodriguez.