When it rains, it pours -- all over Angels' Finley

ON BASEBALL

August 02, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Who can blame Chuck Finley's Anaheim teammates if they're a bit leery of getting too close to him? Wander over to say hello and take a chance of being run over by a train or hit by a falling safe.

This guy's luck is so bad, it's frightening. For Finley, it has been excruciating.

He managed to get through Thursday's start against the Yankees without ending up in a hospital, which was a victory in itself. The occasion should have been marked by some sort of on-field ceremony. Still, he couldn't catch a break where results count, getting a no-decision despite pitching eight shutout innings in New York's 3-0, 10-inning win.

Finley's superb performance, which included nine strikeouts, came six nights after he was struck just above the left elbow by a line drive from Kansas City's Jeff King, the latest in a bizarre series of mishaps.

Less than a week before getting hit by King, Finley was nailed on the right forearm by a liner from former Oriole Joe Carter while sitting in the Angels' dugout. Three days before that, he had to leave his July 15 start in the fifth inning when he lacerated his knee while sliding across the base path on an attempted tag, requiring eight stitches to close the wound.

Off to a 4-0 start with a 1.70 ERA, he was seeking his 15th straight victory dating back to last season on May 2 when he suffered a bruised left elbow after being hit by a liner from Chicago's Chad Kreuter. Instead, he went 0-2 over his next five starts while continuing to wear a bull's eye.

Finley's latest start was pushed back only one day. Though his elbow was wrapped and slightly swollen, he had almost full flexibility while playing catch earlier in the week.

"I thought that was it. I thought my elbow had shattered," said Finley, whose hard-luck saga dates to last season when he was hit by a flying bat during batting practice and broke a facial bone and fractured his left wrist backing up home plate. "My hand was numb. It was so deep. It's like laying your arm down on a table and telling somebody to hit you with a sledgehammer. I was thinking, 'God's telling you something. Just tell everybody goodbye.' "

The Angels, battling Texas for the AL West crown, could say that about their season if they lost Finley, whose 2.96 ERA is accompanied by 154 strikeouts.

Percival's dizzy spells

The Angels got their closer back. Now, they're looking for answers.

What caused Troy Percival's repeated dizzy spells, which led him to get a brain MRI and an arteriogram last weekend? The tests showed no irregularities, which brought doctors to two conclusions: allergies, or Percival's intake of nicotine and caffeine.

"My mom is allergic to cigarette and cigar ashes and I had a couple of cigars before we went on the road, so it's possible that had something to do with it," he said. "Or it could've been some kind of food allergy."

Percival was taken to a hospital shortly after arriving at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. He had complained of dizziness twice on July 23, before and after recording his 29th save in Minnesota.

Doctors are concerned about Percival's heavy coffee consumption and his smokeless tobacco use.

"I had already cut them both in half," said Percival, who was cleared to pitch on Monday after throwing in the bullpen and contributed one shutout inning to Thursday's loss. "I was down from 10 cups of coffee a day to about four, down from two cans of dip to one and stopped chewing two or three times a day. I'm not going to dip or chew at all anymore, and I'm going to cut way back on the coffee. I might be a little grouchy, but I'll be playing."

Percival's wife, Michelle, is pregnant with the couple's first child, prompting the reliever to get checked out.

Waiting for Bonilla

Los Angeles third baseman Bobby Bonilla was eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday, but it's possible the former Oriole won't play again this season. Just don't try to sell that idea to club officials.

Bonilla reportedly is upset that the Dodgers keep asking about the condition of his surgically repaired left wrist that put him on the DL July 17.

"Ideally, they would let me go home, set up a rehab place and let me get better," said Bonilla, acquired from Florida in the blockbuster Mike Piazza deal. "That would be best for both parties. That's not what I want to do, but what can I do?"

Bonilla, 35, was scheduled to have the wrist examined Friday in New York. He took batting practice two days before but cut it short after complaining of pain above the wrist.

"They knew this was going to be a problem when they traded for me," he said. "Recovery time is one year. Believe me, I want to be out there, but I can't. Maybe the doctor will say give it one more try. But I'm not going to be the bad guy in here."

Dodgers general manager Tom Lasorda said he was surprised by Bonilla's comments.

"He looked great out there. How are we supposed to know how he's doing unless we ask him? We thought he was getting better. He was great in BP. He didn't tell us anything was wrong," Lasorda said.

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