Shouldering the blame

Well, it took almost an hour, but I'm finally able to write this blog entry. I knew that my wireless card and laptop would eventually allow me to get some work done. Thanks to both.

I'm heading to Ocean Pines later this morning - and much later than I anticipated because of my internet issues - and I plan on pulling over my car and hurling this Verizon card and ThinkPad into the bay.

I'll pay the fine.

I also woke up with an inexplicable hatred of the Miami Heat. Go figure.

If you feel a special attachment to Felix Pie after last night's game, he'd welcome your visit to www.facebook.com/FelixPie.

If you feel a special attachment to Michael Gonzalez, he'd welcome your visit to Prince George's Stadium. He's scheduled to pitch tonight and tomorrow for Double-A Bowie - his first back-to-back test - while continuing an injury rehab assignment that could conclude with his activation from the disabled list immediately after the All-Star break.

Gonzalez won't return to the closer's role as soon as he slips on an Orioles uniform. It could happen eventually - and for the money he's being paid, that's not a terrible idea - but he'll have to climb up the innings ladder. The job still belongs to Alfredo Simon.

Gonzalez's activation could end Frank Mata's time in Baltimore, assuming that Josh Bell returns to Triple-A Norfolk when Chris Tillman's recalled on Saturday.

I've been asked whether Gonzalez underwent an MRI on his left shoulder as part of his physical before signing with the Orioles.

The short answer is "no."

That test isn't always part of the physical. One team official said it's bypassed "most of the time" unless the examination leads to other questions.

The Orioles reviewed Gonzalez's outings with the Braves, checked his velocity and noted how he pitched into October and Atlanta later offered him arbitration - obviously convinced that he was healthy. They also understand that an MRI on a pitcher's shoulder is going to reveal a certain amount of wear and tear, which Gonzalez is quick to point out.

There didn't seem to be any red flags until Gonzalez showed up in Sarasota and was soft-tossing during his bullpen sessions and lacking command of his pitches.

Red flags. Blinding, bright red flags.

Gonzalez says he has two small tears in his rotator cuff and some fraying in his labrum, which were discovered in an MRI before he went on the disabled list, but he can pitch with them now that the muscles in the shoulder have been strengthened. The Orioles continue to list the injury as a strain.

I'm not a doctor and I'm not qualified to say whether Gonzalez's physical should have included an MRI. I can only state that if I'm doling out $12 million for a pitcher, I'm scrutinizing everything, including his ear wax. But I'm fussier than most. Hence, my tantrums over my wireless card and laptop.

There are people in baseball who think he'll be fine and live up to his contract, or at least most of it. Others are convinced that he'll undergo surgery later this year and not pitch in 2011.

I could name one former member of the organization who predicts the latter.

Gonzalez needs to get back on a major league mound and start blowing away hitters, and he needs to do it through next season. Otherwise, the decision to sign him will continue to be more closely examined than any shoulder in baseball.

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