Two-time American League batting champion Nomar Garciaparra underwent wrist surgery yesterday to repair tendon damage and will be out of the Boston lineup for at least 10 weeks.
Red Sox team doctor and hand specialist Dr. Bill Morgan removed a bone fragment that was contributing to the chronic tendon inflammation that forced Garciaparra out of action this spring. Morgan also repaired the sheath of tissue around the tendon.
Garciaparra originally suffered the injury during the 1999 season, when he was hit by a pitch from then-Orioles reliever Al Reyes. He played through the irritation to win his second straight batting title last year, but the soreness worsened dramatically a week into spring training.
General manager Dan Duquette indicated yesterday that the surgery went as expected, but the club still can't be sure when Garciaparra will be able to play again. The best-case scenario puts Garciaparra back in the lineup in late June, but no one is denying that it could take much longer than that.
"I don't know, but usually these things take a while," Duquette said. "We're looking at a minimum of 10 weeks. ... I think that timetable is realistic, but we'll have to see how it comes along."
And then there is the question of whether he will come back as the same hitter.
"He's in a significantly challenging job," Duquette said. "Hopefully, we have corrected the problem and he will return to a high level of performance."
Journeyman Craig Grebeck started at shortstop in yesterday's season opener at Camden Yards. The Red Sox pondered trading for a replacement shortstop when it became apparent Garciaparra would be out for an extended period, but Duquette said that he found no one available who was better than the reserve players already on the Boston roster.
Media access battle begins
Major League Baseball and the Orioles used Opening Day to initiate tighter media access while continuing to press for copyright enforcement and access to media images.
The moves' timing is especially curious given the approaching negotiations for a new Basic Agreement.
After the resolution of the 1994 work stoppage, both Major League Baseball and the players association pledged to improve relations with media and fans.
However, MLB's recent attempt to gain access to all images of its teams and players precipitated a strong response from media outlets, including The Sun and the Associated Press Sports Editors. MLB is working on revisions, but media organizations did not find the latest version acceptable.
MLB's stance is that it seeks to gain control of images shown over the Internet by unlicensed entities. It also believes gaining access to daily publications' photographs is a fitting giveback from newspapers and magazines that often use images for publications beyond their daily product. There's also an ongoing effort by MLB to restrict Internet outlets from providing pitch-by-pitch game accounts.
Reporters and photographers who refused to agree to the restrictions, including those from The Sun, were granted daily credentials that did not require a waiver.
In addition, the Orioles supported MLB's newly enacted measure that prohibits media access to the clubhouse during batting practice. Effects of the policy quickly became obvious. The Orioles were leaving the clubhouse for batting practice just as media members were given access at 11:30 a.m. Players left the field at 1:25 p.m. only to enter a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Doors remained closed until 2 p.m. Access was again cut off at 2:10 p.m. for another meeting.
"When our team is on the field for batting practice, there is no reason for media to be in the clubhouse," said Orioles director of public relations Bill Stetka. "The clubhouse isn't meant to serve as a lounge for media."
Gibbons takes aim
Batting practice just got a whole lot more interesting with the arrival of Jay Gibbons, the Rule 5 pick who looks like he could bend steel with his hands.
Or perhaps knock a few bricks out of the warehouse.
No player has hit it during a game since Camden Yards opened in 1992. Gibbons, with his powerful stroke from the left side, wouldn't be a poor choice if someone starts a pool this year.
Forget Eutaw Street. He might reach I-95.
"I haven't even thought about it. I didn't know it was reachable," he said. "It's just fun hitting in a big ballpark. It's really my first time doing it. Hitting the ball into the stands, with the fans out there, it was a lot of fun. I'm just trying to take it in and enjoy the moment."
The "moment" provides quite a contrast to last year, when Gibbons was tucked away at the Double-A level in the Toronto Blue Jays' organization.
"It's a bit different," he said. "I was in Greenville, N.C., and I was excited then. But this definitely takes the cake, playing with all these guys and being a major leaguer. It's always been my dream and I'm finally here.
"The last few nights I've been tossing and turning. I'm glad this day finally came."
New alleys `no big deal'