The Boston Globe
Garciaparra takes cast off
By Gordon Edes, Globe Staff, 3/22/2001
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - For the first time in three weeks, Nomar Garciaparra walked out of the Red Sox clubhouse with a baseball in his hand and no cast on his right wrist.
All he did was play catch in the batting cages with trainer Jim Rowe, but it was another hopeful sign that Garciaparra's return to the lineup will come sooner rather than later.
Reinforcing that impression was the opinion of Tony Daly, the Los Angeles-based orthopedist to whom Garciaparra has turned in the past for treatment of other injuries. Tuesday, Daly, who also has served as orthopedist for the US Olympic team and is the team doctor for the Los Angeles Clippers, met with Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem. Daly also reviewed the MRIs taken at the end of February, when Garciaparra first reported his wrist was too sore for him to play.
''I would think he doesn't need surgery,'' Daly said yesterday. ''I agree with everything [the Red Sox medical staff] has done so far, and it sounds encouraging.''
Daly said the MRI showed only a ''little split in the tendon'' and no other damage in the area. Sox doctor Bill Morgan has described the injury in a statement as a longitudinal split in the ECU tendon.
Garciaparra, whose wrist had been immobilized until he was fitted with a removable splint Saturday, played catch for about 10 minutes yesterday.
''I felt all right,'' he said. ''There's still soreness, but that's to be expected. It will be a good 5-7 days to get back where it will feel normal again from the stiffness.''
Daly said he has not spoken this month with Garciaparra, who sustained the injury Sept. 25, 1999, when he was hit by a pitch by Baltimore's Al Reyes.
''I would be more concerned if this has been a chronic injury for a year and a half rather than something that flared up again recently because he aggravated it somehow,'' Daly said.
Garciaparra said he felt discomfort in the wrist last season, but did not tell the Red Sox' medical staff. Daly said Garciaparra never complained to him, either. ''He never missed any games because of the wrist,'' Daly said.
On the contrary, Garciaparra hit .372 to become the first righthanded hitter since Joe DiMaggio in 1939-40 to win back-to-back batting titles. Even when Garciaparra dipped below .400, manager Jimy Williams said, he still finished strong. Indeed, after batting .288 in August, Garciaparra hit .376 in September. Had he continued to decline, Williams said, he would have been more concerned.
''I don't remember seeing him flinching on check swings, I don't remember seeing that,'' Williams said. ''And I usually watch pretty close. And so do you [reporters]. And none of you asked me last year.''
Daly reiterated that how Garciaparra responds to increased activity should determine whether he will require surgery.
''My opinion is he's going to be OK without surgery,'' Daly said. ''Let's see how it goes while he's working out.''
Garciaparra said he expects that if he is able to play without surgery, he will undoubtedly have some discomfort in his wrist. In part, it's not only a question of whether he can play in his current condition, but whether he'll be able to tolerate the pain.
''I know I'm going to feel it, that's obvious,'' he said.
Garciaparra said that yesterday was not the first time he had heard Dan Duquette's published comments that it would take 10-16 weeks for Garciaparra to recover from surgery, though he has had no direct discussions on the subject.
''We'll talk about a timetable if we need to talk about it,'' Garciaparra said.
Daly was surprised to hear of Duquette's comments, which appeared in Wednesday's Boston Herald.
''Well, they'd have to reattach the tendon, then he'd probably be in a cast for 3-4 weeks, followed by some rehab - I don't believe that one,'' Daly said. ''Not [Garciaparra]. There's a big difference between 10 and 16 weeks.
''If it turns out to be surgery, there will be a lot of opinions. But from what I've heard, no one is pushing surgery.''
Garciaparra plans to play catch again today, and will increase activity depending on how the wrist responds.
Williams was asked how late Garciaparra could go in Florida without playing a game and still be ready for Opening Day April 2 in Baltimore.
''Probably next Thursday,'' said Williams, selecting the day on which the Sox play their final game in Florida before exhibitions on the weekend in Houston and Milwaukee.
''That's what I really think. That's not saying I'm right, but as far as how he works doing everything else, I don't think he needs a lot of at-bats.
''But we've got to get to that point first. We really can't talk about it until he gets to the point where he's comfortable to play. How far off is it? I don't know.''
In the meantime, the Sox are exploring deals for a backup shortstop. Cleveland has let the Sox know that backup shortstop John McDonald, the former Providence College star, is available, but he would not come cheaply. The Texas Rangers have some interest in Rolando Arrojo, and would be willing to talk about Kelly Dransfeldt, who has an outstanding glove and limited bat (.247 in Triple A). The Sox would have interest in reacquiring Mike Benjamin from the Pirates, but he has been hurt this spring. Desi Relaford, the backup shortstop with the Mets, is another possibility.
This story ran on page 01 of the Boston Globe on 3/22/2001.
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