John Tudor may forever remember the pitch he used to strike out Oakland’s Mark McGwire in Game 3 of the World Series Tuesday night.
Not only was it Tudor’s final pitch of this World Series, it may also have effectively marked the end of his baseball career.
The arm injury that forced Tudor out of Tuesday’s game after 1 innings was diagnosed Wednesday as “a significant sprain of the medial collateral ligament of the elbow” by Dodger team physician Dr. Frank Jobe, who called the condition possibly career-threatening.
“I don’t think there’s any chance he’ll pitch again the rest of the World Series,” Jobe said. “This is the same ligament that’s bothered him for some time, but his pitching (Tuesday) was the additional straw to break the camel’s back, so to speak.”
Tudor, starting for only the second time in 18 days, pitched to just four batters during the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to Oakland. He complained of discomfort in his left elbow after completing a perfect first inning and was forced out of the game after striking out McGwire at the start of the second.
Wednesday, Tudor told reporters he had experienced “twinges of pain in the elbow in almost every other start” after his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Dodgers Aug. 17.
“It was just an off-and-on pain,” he said. “But never like last night. Before, it was always one pitch (when he felt the pain). Then, I’d get some soreness the rest of the game, but it would go away.
“But last night, it got worse and worse--to the point of where it was ridiculous. I shouldn’t even have tried to get McGwire out.”
According to Jobe, Tudor will undergo a week of physical therapy before the elbow is re-examined. At that point, Jobe will determine if the elbow requires surgery--and if Tudor is willing to undergo such surgery.
“We have two options,” Jobe said. “If it looks like there’s a good ligament left, we can treat it conservatively, with ice and heat and exercise. If it appears to be more than that, if he is unable to pitch with it, (surgery) is certainly a possibility. We’ll have to measure that option in light of John’s career goals.”
In other words, the surgery could depend on whether Tudor wants to continue his career.
For Tudor, 34, this is the third serious injury he has had in the last two seasons. In April 1987, he broke a bone in his right kneecap during a freak dugout collision with New York Mets catcher Barry Lyons, and last winter, he underwent surgery to repair his left shoulder.
This season, he spent time on the disabled list for both problems, and during a start Sept. 20 against San Francisco, he strained his right hip, prompting Tudor to remark, “I’ve got the body of an 80-year-old.”
Would Tudor be willing to submit to more surgery, should it be required?
“Well, I don’t think it’s something we’ve really reached a point on,” he said. “I don’t know what I’ll do. It depends, in the first place, what (Jobe) finds out after it’s examined again and how long the rehab is in the second place.”
Tudor is signed through 1989, a contract that will pay him $1.3 million next year, and has said he wanted to make that his final season. “It is as of right now,” he said Wednesday. “Even more so right now.”
The Dodgers gave up power-hitting outfielder Pedro Guerrero to bring Tudor to Los Angeles, a high price for what could amount to 4 victories. In 9 regular-season starts for the Dodgers, Tudor was 4-3 with a 2.41 earned-run average.
Did the Cardinals knowingly send the Dodgers damaged goods?
“No, I have to think he was healthy when we got him,” said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. “We saw him pitch a number of times immediately before the trade and we asked the Cardinals if he was in good health. And they said he was.
“I can’t make any other assessment, than from what we saw and were told.”
Tudor, however, says the elbow has bothered him all season. He tried to pitch through it but admitted Wednesday that “if I thought something like this would happen, I wouldn’t be pitching at all . . .
“Throughout this whole thing, I had been able to put my finger on the spot that was tender. Last night, I couldn’t put my finger on (the entire) spot. I knew something was wrong right then.”
Had his recent inactivity contributed to Tuesday night’s strain?
“I thought about it,” said Tudor, whose previous start came on Oct. 7 in Game 4 of the National League playoffs. “I really don’t think so, but it could be a possibility. But I’m not going to blame it on that.”
Thus the Dodgers, already without their two best hitters in Kirk Gibson and Mike Marshall, must play the remainder of the World Series without their best left-handed starting pitcher. If a sixth game is necessary, Tim Leary figures to replace Tudor as the Dodgers’ starter.
Claire would like to fill Tudor’s spot on the roster with another pitcher--Fernando Valenzuela and Tim Crews would be possible candidates--but a rule prohibits replacing an injured player once the World Series is in progress.
Both Claire and Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth would like to change that rule.
“I’m not disputing that the rule is a rule, but I think it’s a hardship,” Claire said. “I think there can extenuating circumstances. What happens if you lose 2 or 3 players in a car accident?”
Ueberroth said he proposed changing the rule in 1985, when the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals lost Vince Coleman to injury.
“I suggested to the rules committee that they revise it after 1985,” Ueberroth said. “Nothing happened. My suggestion will be that they look at it again.”
This October, however, all the Dodgers can do is make do without the patients of Jobe. Times staff writers Sam McManis and Ross Newhan contributed to this story.