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DODGERS REPORT

Sheffield Sidelined as Back Problems Flare Up Again

September 17, 2000|TIM BROWN

Seized by back spasms earlier in the day, Dodger left fielder Gary Sheffield did not play Saturday night against Colorado and likely will sit out more games.

The club did not consider the injury serious enough to order an X-ray or MRI. Team physician Dr. Frank Jobe examined Sheffield and recommended anti-inflammatory medication and daily treatment.

"It's been bothering me for three days," Sheffield said after Saturday night's game. "Today, I couldn't move. Every time I try, it's like something sticking me in the back."

Asked when he might play again, Sheffield said, "Hopefully a couple more days."

Trainer Stan Johnston said Sheffield has suffered from occasional back stiffness through the season. Johnston did not know the cause of Sheffield's recent trouble.

"A guy that creates as much torque as Sheff does swinging the bat," Johnston said, "one swing can flame up your back."

Sheffield missed 11 games in late August because of a viral infection and has one home run and eight RBI in 44 at-bats since. Hitless in his last 12 at-bats, Sheffield has 41 homers, one shy of his career high, and 104 at-bats.

"The last couple days he was stiff," Manager Davey Johnson said. "It's like he's got a knife in his back. He's played just about every minute except when he got sick. As far as how long (he'll be out of the lineup), that I don't know. I'm sure a couple of days, at least."

*

On the heels of the Sheffield report, Johnson also reported Saturday that ace Kevin Brown had pitched his "last couple starts" with an unspecified neck ailment. He called it a stiff neck.

Though the team is virtually out of the playoff race, Johnson apparently will allow Brown to make his remaining starts. Many organizations would fear a mechanical adjustment by Brown that would put undue strain on his arm.

Brown, who gave up six earned runs and had six strikeouts over 13 innings in his last two starts, is scheduled to pitch again Monday against Arizona.

*

Catcher Todd Hundley met recently with Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone and said the two had a short discussion about Hundley's future with the club.

"My mother died two weeks ago," Hundley said. "I told him that it's really, honestly, the last thing on my mind. I'm more concerned with my father and my sisters and my family. That will work out over the winter. Yes, I would like to play for the Dodgers. It's a good group. I like the town.

"But I've know this was coming. When they bought out my option, I knew this would be where it is. It's to my advantage. That's the way I look at it. We're all professionals. We treat it as professionals."

*

Right-hander Ismael Valdes finishes his five-game suspension today and apparently is over a finger ailment. It appears unlikely that Johnson will allow Valdes another start.

"I haven't decided," said Johnson, who added it would serve the organization better to give innings to youngsters Eric Gagne, Luke Prokopec and Jeff Williams.

Valdes said he would gladly work out of the bullpen and restated his desire to re-sign with the Dodgers.

TODAY

DODGERS' LUKE PROKOPEC (0-0, 1.23 ERA) vs. ROCKIES' MASATO YOSHII (6-14, 5.68 ERA)

Dodger Stadium, 1 p.m.

TV--Channel 5. Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330)

* Update--Prokopec makes his first start at Dodger Stadium. He gave up one earned run in 4 1/3 innings in his only previous big-league start, Tuesday at Arizona. Yoshii has one win in his last five starts and two since June 29. Yoshii was 0-5 with a 6.82 ERA in July and 1-2 with a 7.12 ERA in August. Right-handers are batting .329 against him, all hitters .305.

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