Lampkin hopes to be back

  • Kirby Arnold / Inside the Clubhouse
  • Saturday, December 9, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

When Tom Lampkin hears people worry about the condition of his surgically repaired right elbow, or his advancing age, he just heads for the gym and pushes his workout regimen to another level.

And that, for anyone familiar with Lampkin’s fanatical approach to his own fitness, is a level few athletes can attain.

“Tom is going to be 37 years old, but I’ll put him up against any 30-year-old in the game,” Seattle Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said. “In terms of his conditioning and his mental approach, there aren’t too many 30-year-olds in as good a shape as Tom is at 37.”

Then again, the doubters might say, 30-year-olds don’t face the tall odds that Lampkin is battling this winter. He’s a catcher trying to come back from an injury that is difficult for players at his position, much less his age.

Lampkin, a free agent, is determined to reach full strength by the start of spring training in mid-February, just seven months after having “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow. He works out daily at a fitness facility near his home in Vancouver, Wash.

Besides a pitcher, there’s no other position in baseball where the comeback is tougher from such an injury, Griffin says. In addition to making 130 or more throws back to the pitcher each game, Lampkin will be tested often by base-stealers when he returns to the field.

So far, the comeback is going smoothly.

Lampkin, a valuable Mariner the past two seasons because of his left-handed bat, is throwing a baseball about 100 feet, three times a week for about 12 minutes, and says there has been no alarming pain.

“I’m progressing in minutes or distance every day, and it feels great,” he said. “Sometimes it scares me how good it feels and how much I’m able to get on the ball. The rehab period for this injury is 8-12 months and if I’m going to be ready at 7 1/2 to eight, then I’m on the front end of that.”

Lampkin has no doubt he’ll be ready when spring training begins. The biggest question is whether it’ll be in a Seattle uniform again.

Manager Lou Piniella said the club discussed offering a minor league contract. Lampkin thinks he can do better.

“We’ve had some interest from other clubs, so I’m not concerned about finding a job,” Lampkin said. “There are teams out there that know I’m going to be ready. Obviously, I would like to be in Seattle.”

  • Health report: Griffin says pitcher Ken Cloude should be the only player who won’t be at full strength when spring training begins. Cloude had “Tommy John” surgery on his right elbow in August and is about a month away from starting his throwing program.

    “He’s doing strengthening, conditioning and flexibility work,” Griffin said. “I’m hoping he’ll be pitching again before a year.”

    Pitcher Jamie Moyer recently had his fractured kneecap X-rayed and he’s about 85 percent healed, Griffin said. Moyer is working to strengthen his upper body, along with a considerable amount of conditioning.

    “It’s nothing explosive, but he’s going up and down stairs and has no pain,” Griffin said. “When spring training gets here, he’ll be 100 percent.”

    Pitcher Gil Meche has been on a strengthening and throwing program after his velocity mysteriously dropped early last season. “It was an intense long-toss program,” Griffin said. “He was throwing up to 130 feet and he was throwing hard and on a line. When he was having the arm problems, he couldn’t do that.”

    Meche will report for a pre-spring training program at the Mariners’ training complex in Peoria, Ariz., and will start throwing off the mound.

  • Believe it when you see it: Mariners right-hander Paul Abbott has heard about the new strike zone for next season, but he wouldn’t be surprised to see umpires continue to put a big squeeze on pitchers.

    Umps have been asked to raise the upper level of the strike zone from the hitter’s belt to the midpoint between the belt and the letters, and they gathered earlier this fall to learn the expanded zone.

    “I think because there’s been an infusion of younger umpires, it has a better chance of happening,” Abbott said. “If they’re working on it, then maybe it’ll happen. But I’ll believe it when I see it.”

  • More games on the tube: The Mariners will set a record in 2001 with 140 regular-season games on local television, said Randy Adamack, the team’s vice president of communications. That figure doesn’t include six televised exhibition games, or national telecasts by ESPN or Fox that haven’t been determined.

    Last season, 125 regular-season and three exhibitions were televised locally.

    Fox Sports Net has the local TV rights and will televise most of the games, with other Seattle outlets airing some as well.

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