Feeling the pinch, Gibbons sees pitch

After treatment for wrist makes his hand go numb, he goes sore, hits 2 HRs

July 22, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The pained expressions remind even the casual observer that Jay Gibbons isn't in perfect health. Then he crushes a home run or two, and it's easy to forget.

Gibbons clouded a few memories yesterday by connecting twice off Chicago starter Dan Wright in the Orioles' 8-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He drove one fastball to the flag court above the right-field scoreboard, the ball slamming off a pole and bouncing onto the field, and another into the seats in center field.

For Gibbons, it was his third career multi-homer game, the others coming earlier this season, and a much-needed lift after spending Saturday night on the bench.

The repercussions of his August surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his right hand continue to surface. A suture that didn't dissolve is pressing on a nerve in his right wrist, forcing Gibbons to expand his treatments.

"It seems like such a minor thing, just a little stitch," he said, "but when it hits a nerve, it's pretty painful."

He was scratched from Saturday's lineup after receiving a cortisone shot in the wrist. Gibbons also was given a numbing agent that apparently leaked down to the ulnar nerve, causing the last two fingers on his hand to lose feeling. He didn't regain it until around the fifth inning, and was available to pinch hit in the Orioles' 4-3, 14-inning victory.

"By game time, I couldn't feel the bat in my hand because it was so numb," he said.

The Orioles announced the reason for Gibbons' removal as soreness in his wrist.

"The wrist is always going to be sore," he said. "The only reason I didn't play was because of my two fingers. I went to stick my hand in my glove and couldn't. I told [manager Mike Hargrove], `I can't play first base because I can't feel my hand.' "

Gibbons, who raised his home run total to 18 yesterday, had intended to get the cortisone shot Wednesday but decided not to wait. He's hoping it'll be the last one he needs this season. He would also like to avoid the numbing injections but conceded he'll probably need "one or two more."

Once the season ends, Gibbons will require an arthroscopic procedure to remove the stitch from his wrist. It's a small bump, visible upon close inspection, that's becoming a big nuisance.

"It takes like five minutes," he said. "They open it up and pull that little stitch out. It's probably going to be three or four weeks' recovery, because you've got to wait for the scar to heal."

Each time Gibbons becomes frustrated, he recalls the pain that seared through his hand when breaking the bone and a season that ended much too soon. And he's grateful not to be relieving that horror.

"This is nothing. It's just a stupid, little stitch, something that can be taken care of," he said.

He's bothered more by the perception that he has become injury-prone in his second full season in the majors.

"I'm getting tired of hearing that. I've had one problem my whole career here," he said.

"I just want to go out there every day. It feels OK right now. It doesn't feel great, but it obviously felt good enough. I'll take how it felt today for the rest of the year - a little pain, but manageable."

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