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ANGEL REPORT

Erstad Gets Some Relief

May 26, 2003|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

The cortisone injection Darin Erstad received in his right hamstring earlier this week paid its first dividend Sunday when the Angel center fielder reported considerable improvement after a vigorous workout.

"That knife in the back of the knee is gone, which is nice," Erstad said after running around the edge of the infield before the Angels defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 6-1. It was the first time Erstad had run in a non-linear fashion since April 19, when he suffered the tendinitis in the hamstring that forced him on the disabled list.

Erstad said if his hamstring was still pain-free Tuesday, he would test it further by running around the bases. If he comes out of that workout fine, the Angels might be able to determine whether their team leader could return during the season-high 12-game trip that starts the same day.

"If I feel good, they're going to have a tough time keeping me off a plane and going somewhere" for a minor league rehabilitation assignment, Erstad said.

Still, Erstad and Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged that even in a best-case scenario it would take some time for Erstad to rebuild the strength in his hamstring after sitting out five weeks.

"We definitely have to go through some hurdles to get him into baseball shape," Scioscia said. "[But] where Erstad is today is definitely a ray of sunshine through a storm. We're very encouraged that he's taking steps forward."

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The Angels are hoping this isn't remembered as the season of the hamstring injury. Their team leader, Erstad, has been out for more than a month, and their top prospect, Casey Kotchman, was sidelined for more than a week because of a strained right hamstring.

Now the Angels' surging triple-A shortstop, Alfredo Amezaga, is on the seven-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring. The Salt Lake standout, who recently recorded a 22-game hitting streak and is hitting .352, suffered the injury last week going to his left to field a routine ground ball.

Hamstring injuries can be tricky -- just ask Erstad, whose hopes for a speedy return were shattered -- but General Manager Bill Stoneman said Amezaga's injury doesn't appear to be one that will keep him out for an extended period.

"There's a lot of season left this year and certainly a lot of baseball for Amezaga," Stoneman said. "You'd rather [he] just take it easy, so we kind of forced him to stay off the field by putting him on the DL."

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