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DODGERS

BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : Piazza Could Return to Lineup Friday

May 30, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE

Catcher Mike Piazza was diagnosed Wednesday with a slight cartilage tear of the right knee, but surgery is unlikely, and he could return to the lineup as soon as Friday.

The tear was revealed Wednesday when Piazza underwent an MRI test. There is no structural or ligament damage, and with a couple days of rest and treatment, Piazza believes he'll be ready for the three-game series against the Mets in New York.

Although the Dodgers are counting on Piazza's return by this weekend, Dr. David Rubenstein, who examined Piazza, said it's still possible that surgery could be necessary.

"I'd flip a coin," Rubenstein said. "If he didn't play in a week, I wouldn't be shocked. But if he could play, I wouldn't be surprised either."

If Piazza's knee requires surgery, Rubenstein said, Piazza will be sidelined three to six weeks. However, the Dodgers are so optimistic that Piazza will be OK, they are playing with only one catcher on the roster--Tom Prince. The only other player on the team with any experience catching is third baseman Mike Blowers, who has caught one game in professional baseball.

"It feels better," said Piazza, who may undergo surgery in the off-season. "I don't expect it to disappear overnight, it's just one of those thing you've got to play through."

The worst aspect of the injury, Piazza said, is answering questions again about whether a position change would be beneficial to his career.

"Everybody brings that up," Piazza said. "It's something I really don't think about. If my career is cut short because of being a catcher, so be it. If it's 10 years, so be it. These things are going to crop up.

"I don't think I'll be in left field any time soon."

If anything, Piazza said, he may start take sliding lessons to help reduce the risk of injury.

"They were joking around and saying I should go to the Instructional League and learn how to slide," Piazza said. "Maybe at least I can practice it. It's a basic part of the game that I have to relearn how to do."

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The Phillies honored Dodger Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella before the game by unveiling an official state historical marker that will be erected today at his high school, Simon Gratz High in Philadelphia.

Roxie Campanella, Roy's widow, and his sister, Doris Campanella Coursey attended the tribute along with Dodger officials. Campanella, who won the National League Most Valuable Player award three times, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969.

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Funeral services for former Dodger Mike Sharperson will be held Saturday at Big Miller Grove Baptist church in Lithonia, Ga. Also, the triple-A Las Vegas Stars will hold a memorial service today at 3 p.m. at the Cashman Field Theatre. Both services are open to the public. . . . Shortstop Greg Gagne is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but trainer Charlie Strasser confirmed that Gagne is recovering slowly and could be weeks away from returning.

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