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Garciaparra Expected To Heal Soon

March 25, 1999

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) _ Boston manager Jimy Williams relaxed in his office and smiled as he discussed the return of his best hitter. Nomar Garciaparra’s elbow injury is minor and Williams’ mood is brighter.

``Being selfish, I’m certainly going to think we need this kid to win games, which is not an untrue statement,″ Williams said before his Red Sox faced Minnesota on Wednesday night.

Garciaparra wasn’t back in town in time to play in that exhibition game. But he was expected to work out with the team Thursday after spending two days on the West Coast getting medical opinions on the elbow of his throwing arm.

``The main ligament on the inside of the elbow seemed perfectly fine,″ team physician Arthur Pappas said. ``One of the muscles coming from the area has a little inflammation and I expect that will quiet down. I anticipate Nomar will be back playing in the not-too-distant future, playing shortstop.″

He said the injury should heal completely.

Williams doesn’t expect to use Garciaparra on his first day back with the team but there appears little doubt he will be ready to play shortstop before Boston begins its regular season on April 5 in Kansas City.

``We don’t want to rush him in and play him nine innings right away,″ Williams said. ``I don’t really have a specific game plan yet (but) it’s nice to see that type of player back on the field.″

Especially since Mo Vaughn, Boston’s top slugger, signed after last season with the Anaheim Angels. That left Garciaparra, who hit 35 homers last season, as the team’s only fearsome power hitter.

But he hasn’t played shortstop since March 11 when he apparently hurt his elbow on a relay throw. He did play several games at designated hitter, but his condition was uncertain until he met Monday with Dr. Tony Daly, the Los Angeles Clippers’ team physician, who performed an MRI and an examination.

Garciaparra also saw Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels’ physician, on Tuesday.

``Deep down, the team’s got to be a little concerned with a guy like that,″ said Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni, perhaps Garciaparra’s closest friend on the team. ``You get one of the big guns on your team, now he’s having problems throwing the ball, you want him in your lineup.″

Garciaparra, 25, was the AL’s rookie of the year in 1997. Last season, he was second on the team with a .323 batting average and led Boston with 122 RBIs.

Williams wanted to talk with Garciaparra before deciding when to use him again but was confident he’d be in shape since he was playing as a designated hitter and throwing lightly before leaving for the West Coast.

``We all look forward to watching him play but we want to watch a healthy Nomar play,″ Williams said. ``He can feel free and positive when he makes plays out there, not restricted, so from that standpoint maybe that second opinion really helped him.″

Pappas had some advice for Red Sox fans worried about the team’s best hitter.

``Don’t panic,″ he said. ``I think Nomar will be fine, and we’ll have him back in the lineup, and he’ll play the way he always plays, very well.″

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