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Worrell Battling Tendinitis : Dodgers: He downplays pain since elbow surgery in 1990, saying he expects to be ready for role as the team's closer.


The sun broke through the clouds early enough Monday morning for the Dodgers to begin their voluntary winter workouts on schedule. But the forecast on when pitcher Todd Worrell will begin throwing is as unclear as next week's weather.

Clutching an arm-and-shoulder exercise pamphlet in the Dodgers' clubhouse, Worrell dispelled concerns over a recent report that the tendinitis in his shoulder is cause for alarm. He will pitch next season, he says, but needs time to strengthen his shoulder properly.

Worrell, who signed a three-year contract worth $9.5 million and is being counted on to be the Dodgers' first real closer since 1989, said he has lived and pitched with tendinitis since his elbow surgery in 1990. He was somewhat annoyed by a report by ESPN on Sunday that he says indicated that his pitching career is in jeopardy.

"I had some tendinitis while I pitched last year (with the St. Louis Cardinals), but it was not something that sidelined me," Worrell said. "It was just a source of irritation, and I dealt with it.

"I was fine the last couple months of the season, but then when the season was over and I took a month off, the irritation started to creep in again. It actually got better when I started to throw (after Christmas), but it was still there, so I called the Dodgers to let them know what was going on."

Worrell was examined Friday by Dodger team physician Ralph Gambardella and the Dodger training staff, and was put on a strength program. He is not throwing at all and will be re-examined in three weeks. Gambardella, who works with Frank Jobe, the Dodgers' physician and Worrell's as well, said it is not uncommon for pitchers to experience tendinitis during the off-season.

Worrell said the exercise program the Dodgers put him on is far superior to the one he used with the Cardinals, and that he has already seen progress in the last three days. Fred Claire, the Dodgers' executive vice president, said that team trainers predict Worrell will be ready by spring training.

"I can't honestly tell you when I will be throwing, but there's no reason right now to push it," Worrell said. "More than anyone I want to be ready to go and ready to pitch when the gun goes off, and I am definitely geared up for that."

The Dodgers signed Worrell without requiring a physical examination, but Worrell said he told Jobe about his tendinitis before the team signed him. Claire said he is confident that Worrell's discipline in the strength program will yield positive results.

"Todd did describe the condition to Dr. Jobe, but this is not to lay any blame on him (Jobe)," Claire said. "When you sign any player to a long-term contract, no one gives you a guarantee that there won't be a problem. It's not like buying an appliance. We have faith in Todd. He is very dedicated."

Dodger Notes

Among the no-shows for the workout were Orel Hershiser, who had his charity golf tournament, and Darryl Strawberry, who had personal business. Both players have been at the stadium working with the trainers throughout the off-season. . . . Fred Claire said that he has talked with agent Dennis Gilbert about an invitation to spring training for former New York Met shortstop Kevin Elster.

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