Elster ready for majors, but strike stalls return

August 21, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

BOWIE -- Kevin Elster's injury rehabilitation assignment officially came to an end at 10:42 p.m. last night, when he snared a line drive with two outs in the ninth inning.

His right shoulder is healthy. His timing at the plate is back. He again is making the plays at shortstop, where he set a major-league record for consecutive errorless games while with the New York Mets.

He is ready to leave behind the Albany-Colonie Yankees and the Double-A Eastern League. The majors beckon.

Just one problem, of course.

Kevin Elster is all revved up with no place to go except home.

The major-league baseball strike entered its 10th day, and it has taken Elster with it.

"I'm going home to California and relax," he said, after Albany scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning to defeat the Bowie Baysox, 5-4, before 10,544 at Prince George's Stadium.

Elster now owns the distinction of being the last player to strike, a feat he called "very trivial." He has no choice, but to shut down. And he never considered the alternatives.

"The only way I'd want to [remain with Albany-Colonie] is if the rehab assignment was extended," he said. "No way I want to be sent down because I want my major-league time. So, I've got to strike. I've got to be a good boy and do what the union wants me to do. Time off is nice."

Maybe so, but Elster, 29, has something to prove to his employer, the New York Yankees. At the time he was put on the disabled list on July 7 with inflammation of the right shoulder, he had gone hitless in 20 at-bats.

For someone who hadn't played in the majors since 1992 -- his career was stalled because of a serious shoulder injury while with the Mets -- a slow start was no way to assure a lengthy stay in the Bronx.

He was eager to return and put those troubles behind him. And there's the matter of winning a division title and "making a nice run at the World Series."

Elster was summoned by the Yankees on June 29 when infielder Mike Gallego strained his left calf, but he was disabled July 7 and wound up back in the Eastern League. He was batting just .237 going into last night's game -- his 41st with Albany-Colonie -- with seven doubles, two home runs and 21 RBIs. He went 2-for-4.

Forney gave up a three-run homer to Tom Wilson in the first inning. He was replaced by Dave Paveloff after four innings with the Baysox trailing, 4-2.

Bowie (72-53) had tied the score 4-4 in the eighth on a bases-empty home run by Kris Gresham, but Albany fought back against Baysox reliever Joe Borowski in the ninth. The key blow was a double by Matt Luke that scored Roger Burnett with the go-ahead run.

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