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Joyner Gets Jump on Rehab, Takes Grounders

June 5, 1996

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Barely 48 hours after having his left thumb placed in a cast, San Diego Padres first baseman Wally Joyner slipped his glove on his right hand Tuesday and took ground balls for about 15 minutes.

``I can still walk and still put a glove on my hand,″ said the left-handed Joyner, who anticipates taking grounders and running every day during the four weeks his thumb will be in a cast. ``I’ll do whatever I can so it’s not a big rehab once I can start swinging.″

Joyner’s hitting and defense have been a big reason the Padres have been in first place in the NL West for 63 days. But they’ll have to play without him for the next six to eight weeks, including rehab time once the cast comes off.

He broke his thumb Sunday when he jammed it sliding into second base while trying to break up a double play in Philadelphia.

The good news was that Joyner didn’t injure the ulnar collateral ligament, which he had done in 1981.

``Of all the bad news that I could have gotten, this was the best of the bad news,″ Joyner said. ``A clean break that doesn’t need to have surgery, doesn’t need to have pins put in, it’s a clean break and it’s a big enough piece that has broken off that it’s going to stay in place and heal on it’s own.″

Since he won’t be able to swing a bat until the cast is off, Joyner wants to do whatever else he can. During early batting practice, bullpen coach Grady Little hit several balls to Joyner, who caught them and flipped them out of his glove.

``I’m going to do that every day so I can keep my defensive eye sharp and legs in shape,″ Joyner said. ``I think if I’m doing that I’m winning half the battle.″

Said Little: ``It’s going to take more than just missing one arm for Wally Joyner not to look good catching a ground ball.″

Although he was hitting .321 and had 33 RBIs, Joyner said he was enjoying playing defense the most.

``I know how good our defensive infield is, and when they make great plays to stop a ball, it’s not going to be a great play unless I come up with a catch to finish the play,″ he said. ``I really enjoy being that side of the play. I’m going to miss that, but I think the guys that are going to play first are capable of doing that also.″

The Padres will use Archi Cianfrocco, Marc Newfield and Scott Livingstone at first until Joyner returns.

Joyner was making an excellent transition to the NL after spending the previous 10 seasons in the AL with Kansas City and California.

``This has been probably one of my most enjoyable starts in my career,″ Joyner said. ``But again, the way I look at it is hopefully either in August or September all the starters can play together. I don’t think we’ve had that opportunity. Tony’s been hurt, then Cammy’s been hurt, now I’m hurt. Second half of the season, I hope we can get all of our bumps and bruises taken care of and finish strong.″

The Padres have been forced to play for stretches without Tony Gwynn, Ken Caminiti and Rickey Henderson.

In 1990, Joyner sustained a stress fracture of his right knee cap and missed the second half of the season.

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