Kruk Benched to Get the Load Off His Shoulder

Times Staff Writer

The Padres’ starting lineup dropped by 193 batting-average points, two homers and seven runs batted in with one potentially devastating move before Friday’s game, when John Kruk was replaced indefinitely by .093-hitting Carmelo Martinez because of a recurrence of Kruk’s shoulder problems.

Kruk, who is suffering from a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, was too sore to chase grounders during early infield practice. After he underwent painful stretching exercises in the trainer’s room, he and trainer Dick Dent emerged to tell Manager Larry Bowa that he could not play. Bowa ordered Kruk to the bench for at least the duration of the three-game weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kruk received a cortisone injection Friday evening, and his return will depend on how well he reacts.


“If they hit the right spot, I can be back in two or three days,” Kruk said after the game. “If not, it could be longer.”

Said Bowa: “He’s out for at least three games, maybe more. It’s come to a point where he’s not helping himself or the team by being out there. We could just sit him down a night, and let it get partially better, but then he goes out the next day and dives for another grounder and hurts it again. This time we want to wait.”

Considering that Kruk was the Padres’ player of the month in April with two game-winning homers and is tied for the team lead in homers (three) with nine RBIs and a .286 batting average, his loss will be felt. Particularly because he was replaced by Martinez, who, besides his low batting average, entered Friday’s game with just one home run and two RBIs. He added two hits and an RBI against the Pirates and improved his average to .125.

Kruk first hurt the shoulder diving for a grounder down the first-base line in a game against the Dodgers on April 14 in San Diego. After a thorough examination showed what doctors term a grade one strain, he played only one inning in the next six games. He then returned to the lineup for a week and went 7 for 28 (.250), but he reinjured the shoulder in one of several dives earlier this week against the Chicago Cubs.

“I’m not going to tell John how to play,” Dent said, “but pretty soon his body just isn’t going to let him dive. And his brain will tell him, enough.”

Late in his career, Steve Garvey also stopped going for grounders with dives that would cause further shoulder injury.

Kruk defiantly said such a day would never come for him.

“Someone has already told me to quit diving for balls, but I can’t do that,” Kruk said. “Diving is instinct--you can’t be thinking about your shoulder when you’re trying to get a grounder. If I can’t dive, I can’t play.”