Rick Burleson's three-year struggle to return from a torn right rotator cuff has suffered another setback.
The former All-Star shortstop, hopeful of competing for the Angels' second base job in spring training, will be unavailable until May at the earliest because of a dislocated right shoulder.
The dislocation happened on New Year's Eve, while Burleson was in a Palm Desert gym lifting weights with former teammate Fred Lynn.
"I wouldn't hesitate doing the same exercise and lifting the same weight again," Burleson said Tuesday. "I don't know how it happened, it just did. The shoulder was probably fatigued because of all the therapy I had gone through that day. I heard it pop. I knew something was wrong."
Burleson's arm is in a sling. He has been examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' orthopedic specialist, and Boston orthopedist Dr. Arthur Pappas, whom Burleson has known since his years with the Red Sox.
According to Burleson, 33, both indicated that the new injury should not affect the torn rotator cuff, or prevent him from playing again. His concern is with a partial paralysis of his right hand.
"I either bruised or stretched a nerve, and it's as if half my hand is asleep," he said. "Even if my shoulder was totally in synch, I couldn't grip a ball. I can hardly write my name. It has me worried some, but it does seem to be getting better.
"I saw Dr. Pappas in Phoenix Friday, and he said there was no reason I couldn't come back. He projected that if I didn't push it, I could be ready to play in May.
"My goal was to be ready to go in spring training and ready to play every day at a new position when the season started.
"Now I'm back on hold. Now I'm back having to shut it down for a couple of months. It looks like a fourth-straight year of not being able to play a full season."
Burleson suffered the initial tear Aug. 17, 1982, had surgery, returned briefly in August of '83, and went back on the disabled list in September. He suffered a new tear while competing with Dick Schofield for the starting shortstop's job last spring, was activated as a utility player in September, then decided recently to make his new comeback at second base.
"The last time I threw was New Year's Eve day," Burleson said. "I threw as well as I ever have. I was snapping off throws from every angle, every distance. I was doing it in sets, resting in between, and it was taking me only four throws to get warm again with no stiffness.
"It was definitely devastating for this to happen, considering how far I had come from the tear. I wanted to say, 'Why me?'
"I'm still disappointed, but I'm not going to dwell on it. I'm encouraged by what the doctors say. I'm looking at it as one more thing to overcome. I'm anticipating having this behind me once and for all and getting back to being the player I once was."
Burleson's situation further clouds an uncertain infield situation for the Angels. Rob Wilfong, who platooned at second with Bobby Grich last year, remains unsigned. Rob Picciolo appears to be the only back-up infielder, apart from first baseman Daryl Sconiers. General Manager Mike Port, returning from an owners' meeting in New York, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.