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Down The Line

July 29, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna

Shuey gets hip to a comeback

What seemed like a routine save, 1 1/3 scoreless innings to close a 6-3 victory over the Angels on June 30, was anything but for Orioles reliever Paul Shuey, who in the five years since his previous save had three hip surgeries, including a hip-replacement procedure that has not yet been approved in the U.S., three full seasons away from the big leagues and one retirement.

"You go through all the effort to get back, and then to get an opportunity like that ... " said Shuey, the 36-year-old right-hander who last saved a game for the Dodgers in a 6-2 win over Florida on Aug. 22, 2002. "It was really nice."

Shuey, a pennant-drive acquisition from Cleveland in 2002, went 11-6 with a 3.43 earned-run average in 90 games for the Dodgers despite right hip pain -- stemming from a 1999 injury and arthroscopic surgery -- that grew severe by the end of 2003.

He had surgery to reattach the labrum in his hip and grind down several bone spurs that winter, but his condition worsened the following spring, and Shuey, one of the game's hardest throwers in Cleveland from 1994 to 2002, lost his velocity.

"If it's excruciating and you can throw 96 mph, that's one thing," Shuey said. "When the pain is that bad and you're throwing 87-90 mph and you're ineffective, you're not going to get away with much."

Shuey underwent another surgery to fill a hole in a bone where a large spur had been removed, and he missed the entire 2004 season. He went to spring training with the Indians in the spring of 2005, and his velocity -- if that's what you want to call it -- topped out at 82 mph.

"The big man upstairs," Shuey said, "was telling me I had to shut it down."

After a brief stint with Cleveland's double-A team, Shuey retired and considered a hip replacement.

His doctor advised a less-invasive procedure called hip resurfacing, in which a metal ball joint, socket and pelvis are inserted. "I basically have a big ball bearing in there instead of a hip joint," he said.

As soon as he got off crutches, Shuey began throwing without pain. He found his proper stride and mechanics. His fastball returned to the 91-mph range, and after working out for scouts, he landed a contract with the Orioles.

Shuey opened 2007 at triple-A Norfolk but was called up in June and is 0-1 with a 4.80 ERA in 15 games.

He sets off all sorts of bells and whistles when he goes through airport security, "but the arm is good," Shuey said. "I wouldn't be surprised to play a few more years."

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Trade deficit

Bill Stoneman's track record for blockbuster deals -- he doesn't really have one -- is well known, but the Angels general manager hasn't had much luck lately with minor deals, either.

Last winter he sent relievers Brendan Donnelly to Boston and Kevin Gregg to Florida for left-hander Phil Seibel, who was injured in April and released, and right-hander Chris Resop, who has spent all but a week of the season at triple A and is now on the disabled list.

Donnelly was having a productive season (3.05 ERA in 27 games) before going on the DL June 17, and Gregg, a mop-up man for most of his three years in Anaheim, won the Marlins' closer job early in the season and has converted 20 of 22 save opportunities, with a 3.32 ERA in 50 games.

What's the difference between closing and mop-up duty?

"I actually get a chance to pitch," Gregg said. "I wanted the ball more in Anaheim, but there wasn't much of an opportunity with [Francisco] Rodriguez and [Scot] Shields there."

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Off to a rocky start

Couldn't help but wonder after watching Giants left-hander Barry Zito, who is 7-10 with a 5.28 ERA, get pounded for six runs and eight hits in four innings by Florida on Friday night:

Is the seven-year, $126-million contract Zito signed last winter going to make the deal Mike Hampton got from Colorado in 2001 -- eight years, $121 million, a 53-48 record, hasn't pitched since 2005 -- look like a bargain?

-- Mike DiGiovanna

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