As the Dodgers’ interest in Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Morgan seemed to increase Wednesday, Kirk Gibson said he would be accelerating a program designed to determine if his sore right knee will be ready for opening day.
Gibson took 100 swings in batting practice Wednesday, 25 of them against live pitching for the first time this spring.
“We’ve tried to baby it and it’s still sore,” Gibson said of the knee.
“Now I’ll try to push it and play through it. Dr. (Frank) Jobe has assured me that the structure of the knee is sound, that I can’t hurt it, so it’s time to find out what’s going to happen.
“Within 10 days, I should know if I can play opening day or have to consider other options.”
Gibson said he will start running, throwing and hitting regularly. He said the knee isn’t ready, that it remains stiff and sore from a buildup of scar tissue resulting from his injury in last October’s playoff with the New York Mets, but he is now concerned about the decreasing amount of time before the opener at Cincinnati April 3.
“As it is, I’m not going to have as much playing time as I would like,” he said.
Thus, since rest and a recent cortisone injection failed, Gibson hopes the accelerated program will break down the scar tissue.
What happens if that also fails?
“I don’t know what the options are,” he said. “They’ve pretty much put the possibility of surgery to rest, and I’ve already told them I won’t go through a season taking shots. I’ve had enough injections. In certain situations, that’s the answer, but not this one. I want to be able to walk when I’m 35, and there are certain side effects to taking shots every other week.
“But at this point it’s unfair to speculate beyond the next 10 days. I still think it’s feasible I can be ready for the opener, but then everyone thought it would be healed by now.
“It’s been frustrating, and there’ve been days when I’ve been very irritable. It felt great to have a bat in my hands and actually hit the ball, even though (the knee) felt sore doing just that.”
Executive Vice President Fred Claire said he was encouraged by Gibson’s willingness to test the knee.
“I’ll be concerned only if problems develop in the next 10 days,” he said.
Claire did not watch Gibson’s first batting practice.
Joined by two of his top scouting lieutenants, Phil Regan and Steve Boros, Claire drove to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to watch Morgan pitch two shutout innings against the Mets in a B game.
“It’s cold, raining and we’re the only three people in the stands, so obviously we still have interest,” Claire said after his return to Vero Beach.
The possibility of a deal that would send outfielder Mike Devereaux to the Orioles for Morgan has been under discussion by the clubs for several weeks.
Morgan, 29, has both started and relieved during a six-year career in which his 34-68 record with five organizations is considered more reflective of poor support and force-feeding at the major league level than of his ability.
Of the Dodgers’ interest, Claire said: “He’s a pitcher who could help us, but that’s not to say we’re not looking at others. I’m also not saying that the pitching depth in the organization is down. I think it’s one of our bright spots, but I’m not going to rush some of our kids.
“And the question I’m faced with is, what if Fernando (Valenzuela) is not ready physically and Ramon Martinez doesn’t have command of his curveball (and must be returned to the minors)?”
Asked if he would wait to complete a deal until he had answers to those questions, Claire said: “The one thing I’ve learned in the last two years is that you can never have enough pitching depth. Anytime you can improve your depth you’ve got to do it.”
Valenzuela, who allowed six earned runs in two innings of his spring debut Monday, threw on the side Wednesday and again said there was no stiffness or pain in his shoulder. He is scheduled to pitch against the Orioles Friday in Miami.
The Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves waited out a cold rain before starting Wednesday’s exhibition game here, 2 1/2 hours late. The Braves won, 2-1, despite a strong starting stint of four innings by Tim Belcher, who struck out six and did not allow an earned run.
Jose Vizcaino, Dodger shortstop prospect, was forced out in the fifth inning with a bruised left shin and right thigh muscle after being upended by Darrell Evans’ hard slide. Vizcaino’s status will be day to day, Dodger trainers said.