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Scott Erickson out for season

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Baltimore Orioles right-hander Scott Erickson will have shoulder surgery and probably will be sidelined for the entire 2003 season.


Erickson, 35, hopes to return by September in what will be the final season of a five-year contract. The 12-year veteran plans to have Dr. Lewis Yocum perform the operation to repair a torn labrum late next week.


"It's important to fix it as soon as possible," Erickson said Friday.


Erickson missed the entire 2001 season after elbow ligament surgery in August 2000. He returned last year as the Orioles' opening day starter, but went 5-12 with a 5.55 ERA and did not pitch after Aug. 31.


Erickson began to feel pain in his shoulder toward the end of the season, and an MRI during the winter revealed the labrum tear. Erickson opted to rehabilitate the shoulder instead of having surgery.



The pitcher said he felt fine early in camp, but the shoulder worsened as time went on.


"It's just weakening by the day," he said. "It's not tremendously painful right now, but I can tell it's not going to get better or be a non-factor."


Erickson was one of four pitchers vying for the final two spots in the Orioles' starting rotation.


"We've had lots of questions about what we were going to do with all our starting pitching," Orioles vice president Jim Beattie said. "But in the back of our mind, this was an eventuality we were trying to prepare for...because it wasn't clear-cut that the rehab was going to strengthen the shoulder."


Beattie said the Orioles won't rush to get another starting pitcher, but would listen to offers.


"I'll keep trying to add if we can," he said. "Starting pitching and whatever offensive help are things we will continue to take a look at through spring training."


With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Erickson pitched in at least 200 innings in every season from 1991 to 1999. But injuries have played a major role in cutting back his workload ever since; he started the 2000 season on the disabled list after surgery in March to remove bone chips from his elbow, then had his season cut short by the ligament-replacement surgery.


"It's very strange to all of a sudden have all these things kind of go at one time, but who's to say if one thing didn't lead to another?" he said. "Last year I figured I wasn't throwing with the velocity I thought I could, so I tried to lift more to get stronger and throw harder. That's probably what caused the tear in the shoulder."


Erickson, who pitched a no-hitter with the Minnesota Twins in 1994, hoped to return to the form that enabled him to reel off five straight winning seasons since his arrival in Baltimore in 1995.


Instead, he's left pondering a career that has taken a decided turn for the worse.


"I'm seriously irritated. This is the last thing I wanted," he said. "I kind of wasted the last three years, as it is. This is something I've been doing my whole life since I was 5, 6 years old. The last thing I want to do is sit here and not be able to it."


His return this season is dependent upon the extent of damage to the labrum.


"Those things are kind of related to how much work has to be done when the surgeon gets in there, and what he finds," Orioles trainer Richie Bancells said. "But a return by September is not an unreasonable goal."

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