Not all Angel comebacks this weekend were celebrated with high-fives at home plate and yelps and clenched fists in the clubhouse. A comeback of a different kind--John Candelaria's--received more somber consideration after the starting pitcher's worrisome left elbow forced him out in the fifth inning of the Angels' 5-3 victory over Detroit Sunday.
Again, the Angels beat the Tigers on their final at-bats, breaking open a 2-2 tie with George Hendrick's bases-loaded double in the bottom of the eighth inning. Again, the Angels added a game to their first-place lead over Texas, which is now 5 1/2 games, the largest of the season.
But in the aftermath of their seventh straight victory, there were long faces and concerned voices when the topic of Candelaria was broached.
"I don't know what to think," Manager Gene Mauch said. "Candy's a hard man to deal with because he doesn't want to be taken out of a game no matter how much he's hurting. I can only read what I see, because I can't read what I hear. I don't hear anything."
All Mauch knows is that Candelaria, his only left-handed starting pitcher, continues to be bothered by stiffness in his pitching elbow, a condition that necessitated a cortisone injection last Tuesday. Sunday was Candelaria's first test since the injection and, from the outset, the elbow was foremost on the minds of Mauch and Candelaria.
"It was a little stiff, warming up in the bullpen," Candelaria said. "It was there from the beginning. By the fifth inning, Gene thought I had had enough."
By the fifth inning, Candelaria had allowed just three singles and two runs--one unearned. With one out and runners on first and third, Candelaria yielded a sacrifice fly to Lou Whitaker that enabled Tom Brookens to tie the score at 2-2.
At that point, Mauch interceded, calling on Gary Lucas from the bullpen.
"I don't want to take a chance on hurting him badly," Mauch said. "He competes so hard and he didn't want to leave, but I knew he wasn't right."
Candelaria had the elbow examined by team doctor Lewis Yocum, but he knows the problem--and the cure.
"It needs rest," Candelaria said. "But, sorry, this is not the time to rest it. I'm sure the winter will clear up anything that's there, but right now, we're in a pennant race. I feel I have to pitch."
Mauch, however, may have no choice but to give Candelaria rest. He said he is considering skipping Candelaria's next turn in the pitching rotation.
"We need three or four more wins out of him," Mauch said. "If that means missing a start, it means missing a start."
Yocum says the injury is unrelated to the bone-spur operation that sidelined Candelaria for the season's first three months. The new stiffness involves a tendon on the inside of Candelaria's left elbow.
After lasting just 5 innings in his last start, Candelaria agreed to a cortisone shot. "I was doing what I thought was right," he said. "I thought it would help the arm. Maybe he missed the spot. I hope that's what it is."
Candelaria is anxious to see how the arm feels in a day or two. He might consider another injection.
He is definitely concerned.
"I haven't liked my last two exits," he said. "This is my living. Yeah, I'm worried about it."
Candelaria's early departure Sunday forced Lucas to work 2 more innings after pitching three the night before. And after Lucas was through, Donnie Moore came on for another five outs.
Moore, bothered by arm problems of his own, reported his right shoulder to be in good condition. "This was the best it felt in a while," he said.
Moore earned his third victory by striking out two in 1 innings--although he managed to make it interesting.
After Hendrick's three-run double gave the Angels a 5-2 lead after eight innings, Moore got one quick out and should have had another when he induced Darrell Evans to hit a grounder to first baseman Wally Joyner. Joyner flipped to Moore, covering the base, but Moore dropped the ball for an error.
After striking out John Grubb, Moore surrendered a single to pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson, which moved Evans to third, Moore got himself into more trouble. He balked.
The idea was to try to pick off Gibson at first. Only Joyner wasn't holding the runner on. He was positioned his normal distance from the base.
Moore whirled to throw . . . and could only lob the ball to a surprised Joyner.
"Wally's out there in right field," Moore said. "He wasn't anywhere near the bag. I thought he was breaking for the bag, but he wasn't breaking. I just tried to find him."
That, according to the rules of baseball, constitutes a balk. Evans scored and Gibson took second before Moore could get Brookens to pop to second for the final out.
"I felt pretty good," Moore said in summation. "I just couldn't catch the ball or throw it."
Mauch: "I don't think Donnie will win the Gold Glove. But, oh my goodness, he gave us a lift. He and Lucas, with Lucas pitching two-plus today after three innings the day before. You can't ask a man to do anything more."