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Injuries Sideline 5 Puerto Ricans In The Major Leagues

By Gabrielle Paese

April 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico's baseball fans are a different breed. Some of them profess loyalties to one particular team. You'll find Puerto Ricans who are Yankees fans and others who are Mets fans. Some are even (egads!) Marlins fans.

Whatever their team preference and whether they live on the island or on the mainland, Puerto Rican baseball fans share one common denominator -- they follow ALL the Puerto Ricans playing in the majors with near religious fervor.

Talk in the line at the post office in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, last week turned to baseball. One elderly woman was concerned for Iván Rodríguez.

"I hope he doesn't have to go on the DL with that sore back," she said.

"Oh, are you a Rangers fan?" I asked her.

"No, I root for the Yankees but ŒPudge' is the best catcher in the game," she said.

One of the fantasy baseball players in my league has an all-Puerto Rican lineup. Iván Rodríguez bats leadoff, followed by Carlos Delgado and Roberto Alomar. Juan González was his cleanup hitter until González went on the DL with a sore right thumb last week.

Never mind that this fan had all the players in the major leagues at his disposal. My friend set up his draft order so that his team would be all-Puerto Rican.

That said, the season thus far has been stop-and-go for Puerto Rico's big-leaguers.

Here's the round-up of injuries and ailments.

Texas Rangers catcher Iván Rodríguez is still day-to-day with back spasms. He may soon join his teammate, outfielder Juan "Igor" González on the DL. González injured his thumb last week. Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martínez is also on the DL. Martínez had surgery last weekend to repair a ruptured hamstring tendon and is expected to be out more than a month. Kansas City Royals right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernández has been on the DL since March 22 with a strained elbow, and is expected to start warming up next week for a possible return to the game.

Rodríguez, the AL starter in each of the last nine All-Star games and winner of 10 straight Gold Gloves, is hitting .222 in 45 at-bats. Injuries limited Rodríguez to 111 games last season and 91 in 2000.

Two-time AL MVP González was batting .250 before he went on the DL after 24 games. Martínez was hitting .243 through 37 games before he went down.

Meanwhile, Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams is sidelined with sore shoulders and will miss at least three games. Williams was hitting just .180 with no home runs and one RBI in 50 at-bats this season. He received cortisone shots in both shoulders last week from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

Enough of the bad news. Here are some bright spots.

New York Mets second baseman Roberto Alomar broke out of an 11-game slump last week with a pair of home runs during the Mets' 6-4 victory over Montreal last week.

The 12-time All-Star had been hitting just .170 prior to that game, but redeemed himself in New York with three hits in that outing, all of them off of Mike Piazza's borrowed bat.

"The way you get out of a slump is to go out and play," said Alomar, who was batting .228 through 57 trips to the plate. "In this game you go through your ups and downs and the only way to get through it is to go out and play."

Seattle Mariners' Rubén Sierra is also on a tear. Sierra took over in the order for Edgar Martínez and was hitting .455 through 11 games.

Seattle Mariners pitcher Joel Piñeiro and Minnesota Twins' J.C. Romero are also having hot streaks. Neither pitcher has given up a run so far. Piñeiro has pitched 10 1/3 innings while Romero has 8 2/3 under his cap.

Florida's Ramón Castro should get more playing time after starting catcher Charles Johnson sprained his left thumb. Detroit Tigers' Andrés Torres and Mike Rivera are also likely to see more action. Torres patrols the outfield while Rivera is a catcher.

A total of 23 Puerto Ricans are playing thus far this season in the National League while 21 are on American League team rosters.

You can follow them individually at

What's next for Fres Oquendo?

After getting knocked out in the ninth round last Saturday night in his NABF (North American Boxing Federation) heavyweight fight versus David Tua, Oquendo's stock is now likely to fall. Oquendo (22-1, 13 KOs) went into the fight a 2-1 favorite and was actually ahead on the judges' scorecards when he was felled by a left hook at 1:50 of the ninth. It was his first career loss.

Trainer Félix Trinidad Sr. has made much of Oquendo's willingness to take on tough opponents like Tua, even when it puts his ranking at risk, as it did in this case.

However, the question remains, did Oquendo really need to take a gamble on a Tua fight when he was practically next in line to fight top-ranked Vladimir Klitschko, the World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion? Probably not.

Trinidad Sr. felt one more victory would have put Oquendo in the big leagues, but now Oquendo is likely to drop to seventh or eighth in the rankings. Oquendo was the only heavyweight to beat three top 10-ranked boxers in succession in 2001 while claiming the NABF belt when he TKOed Obed Sullivan in February of 2001.

The 6-2, 230-pound boxer, who turned 29 on April 1, was the WBO's first-ranked boxer going into the fight. He was ranked third by the IBF, fourth by the World Boxing Council and fifth by the World Boxing Association.

Finally, for those who are weighing Oquendo's merits versus those of World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John Ruiz, keep this in mind. David Tua needed less than one minute to polish off Ruiz back in 1996.


Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the most recent recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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