Cut to the chase
Garciaparra says likelihood of surgery 'extremely high'
Updated: Tuesday March 27, 2001 6:43 PM
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Nomar Garciaparra is likely to miss at least the first 2 1/2 months of the season -- and possibly up to four months -- because of an injured right wrist.
The Boston Red Sox shortstop said Tuesday the probability of surgery is "extremely high." The two-time defending AL batting champion, who split a tendon in the wrist when he was hit by a pitch from Baltimore's Al Reyes in September 1999, is to meet with the team doctor Tuesday or Wednesday.
"It seems like we've kind of exhausted a lot of our options right now," Garciaparra said.
Though no final decision has been made, Garciaparra sounded as if he was resigned to an operation. He's hasn't had an at-bat this spring.
"It's going to be hard. It's going to be hard not being part of baseball, period," he said. "You're watching your team play, and you want to be out there with them."
The loss of the three-time All-Star would be a huge blow to the team's hope to make the playoffs. Boston also will start the season missing third baseman John Valentin, who's trying to come back from knee surgery, and pitcher David Cone, who has a sore shoulder.
In addition, Manny Ramirez, signed to a eight-year, $160 million contract, has gotten only 29 at-bats in 11 games this spring because of a pulled left hamstring.
"I don't even want to think about losing Nomar for a significant amount of time because it would be really devastating for us," Pedro Martinez said last week.
Well, it appears that is what it going to happen.
"There's no pipe dream, we're not going to get him back. He's our spine, our backbone and he's gone," Boston's Scott Hatteberg said after the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 11-2 Tuesday in Tampa. "We've got to pick up the slack. As far as filling his spot, it's just not filling the hole at shortstop, you're filling basically our team's offensive leader. A lot of the pressure is going to fall on some other guys. It's not an impossible task, but it's one that some other guys will have to step up."
Designated hitter Dante Bichette said Boston's lineup is formidable even without Garciaparra.
"Don't get me wrong, if he's in the lineup, it makes a world of difference, because he's just unbelievable," he said. "I still think we're a better club than most teams we play."
Merloni left Tuesday's game during the seventh inning after being hit in the left elbow by an Adrian Hernandez pitch. The injury is not believed to serious, but Merloni has a knot near the elbow.
"It shouldn't be that big of a deal," Merloni said. "After while I moved it around and everything felt good. It stiffened up, but it's all right."
The ball that struck Garciaparra's wrist caused swelling in the tendon and the canal the tendon is encased in, making it impossible for the tendon to move smoothly up and down. The throwing and swinging motions required in baseball have aggravated it.
Garciaparra played with the injury last season -- but was on the disabled list from May 12-27 because of a strained hamstring. He said last year there was minor soreness in the wrist but nothing that would cause him to sit out and wound up hitting a league-leading .372.
"It was just something I thought I'd live with the rest of my life," he said. "I thought I'd be a cranky old man, going 'Aw, my wrist hurts.'"
But early in camp, Garciaparra woke up and the pain in his wrist had reached a new level.
"I'd never felt it at this point, ever," He said.
The wrist was immobilized in a cast at first, then Garciaparra was fitted for a removable cast and began mobility exercises and light tossing and swinging. But there hasn't been much improvement.
Garciaparra said he has no regrets about trying to avoid surgery with rehabilitation, saying an operation should always be the last option.
"Mentally, I know from my standpoint I've done everything," he said. "I've had the right advice, the right guidance. I've had the right information up to this point... We've done everything exactly how you're supposed to do it."
Garciaparra could probably play with injury all season without doing longterm damage if he had cortisone shots to deal with the pain, according to Dr. Frank McCue, a hand specialist at the University of Virginia whom Garciaparra consulted Monday. McCue added that he didn't think that was the best option.
Garciaparra said there's no way he'd take daily shots.
"I'm going to be around here for a while," he said. "I'm going to be here for years to come and I'm going to be here this year, too. So let's get it done. Whatever we need to do, let's get it right."