PALM SPRINGS — Another day, another ailment on the Angel pitching staff.
On the afternoon Gary Lucas made a successful return to the mound after sitting out 10 days with a sore shoulder, John Candelaria wound up at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles to undergo examination for numbness in his right leg.
According to Angel team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum, Candelaria complained of numbness in his leg following the pitcher's six-inning stint against the Chicago Cubs Tuesday. When the leg was still numb during pregame workouts Wednesday morning, Candelaria contacted Yocum and a test was scheduled.
Precautionary back X-rays were taken to determine if there was any spinal-disk or nerve damage, but the X-rays were negative. "The back was fine," Yocum said.
The problem was diagnosed as an irritation of the peroneal nerve, the last branch of the sciatic nerve, which is located in the lower calf and ankle.
"There is some local pressure on the nerve," Yocum said. "And that could be due to 101 things. We want to observe it for 48 hours and check it again. It's like when your foot falls asleep--it takes a little while for it to come back."
Candelaria was released from the hospital and is expected back in camp today.
Tuesday, Candelaria was upset over his performance against the Cubs--he allowed nine hits and two earned runs--and complained that his fastball had lost some velocity. The speed gun indicated as much, clocking Candelaria at an average of 84 m.p.h. after he reached 91 during his previous start.
Yocum, however, said the leg was not a factor. "The numbness occurred afterward," he said. The numbness is also in Candelaria's right leg. A left-hander, Candelaria pushes off from the mound with his left leg.
Yocum said he became concerned when "the condition persisted for 24 hours. That's totally unusual with John. I'm concerned any time something is not right with a player as important as John is. That's why I called him in. I wanted to evaluate him fully. Now is the time to head it off."
Yocum will arrive in Palm Springs today and is expected to re-examine the leg Friday.
Lucas, who received clearance to resume pitching from Yocum last weekend, worked the final two innings of Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. He allowed two singles and no runs, struck out one and reported no pain.
"It's gratifying to come off the field with nothing hurting," Lucas said. "It was good to be aggressive again. I could throw without thinking about my arm. Now, maybe I can make some progress and get myself fine-tuned."
Manager Gene Mauch was pleased with the early returns but is waiting for an update on how Lucas' arm feels the day after.
"I hope he feels good tomorrow, because he made me feel good today," Mauch said.
At any rate, Wednesday's outing definitely beat Lucas' last spring appearance on the Palm Springs mound. That was March 21, 1986, when Lucas collapsed as if he were shot, falling to the ground with a stab of pain to his lower back. The back injury eventually sidelined Lucas for four months.
"Lach (pitching coach Marcel Lachemann) didn't have to carry me off this time," Lucas said with a grin. "He was able to watch the speed gun all the time."
Add speed guns: The mechanism doesn't hold the same intrigue, or importance, to Don Sutton, the 41-year old who throws harder than Phil Niekro but not quite as fast as one of Nolan Ryan's pickoff moves to first.
"If the gun shows 87 or 88, then I'd worry," Sutton said, smiling. "Because if it does, whoever's operating it is definitely on something. What that operator needs is a urine test. As long as it registers, I'm happy. As long as the guy with the gun is not beating on the back of it, trying to get a reading."
Sutton was the losing pitcher after yielding 11 hits and 5 earned runs in 4 innings against the Giants. He shrugged it off as "a good workday with bad results.
"Physically, I felt good. But with the wind blowing the ball all over the place, this was not an ideal day to work on curveballs, changeups and sliders. It was a bad day to be precise."
Between the four innings he worked and the pitched he threw on the side afterward, Sutton reached his regular-season limit of 100 pitches per start.
"I made 81 pitches in the game and about 25 in a simulated game," Sutton said. Then he joked, "It was kinda strange. Down there in the bullpen, Gene made me stop at 100 pitches."