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Kiefer Is Hoping for Better Breaks

Steve Kiefer sits in his Columbus, Ohio, home, his left leg in a cast from his ankle to his knee, and faithfully listens to the Columbus Clippers’ International League baseball games on the radio.

It’s hardly the way Kiefer wants to spend the summer, but he hasn’t had much of a choice thanks to the cast.

And he just can’t stand to see the Clippers play in person. At least not until he can play third base for the New York Yankees’ triple-A franchise again.

“I don’t like going there,” said Kiefer, who played at Garden Grove High School and Fullerton College. “It makes me mad to see everyone playing. So I just sit at home and listen to the games.”

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One can’t blame Kiefer, 28, for being bitter. He was hitting .294 with five triples and five home runs, and had hopes of moving up to the Yankees.

“I’m hoping to get the cast off sometime in the next week,” Kiefer said. “It’s ready to come off. I’m not in any pain.”

Kiefer didn’t deal with much pain for six of his seven years in pro baseball. He battled only minor injuries--sore muscles and ankles--after signing with Oakland in 1981. He never sat out more than a week when he split time between the major and minor leagues with Oakland and later with Milwaukee.

But nothing has prepared Kiefer for the rash of injuries and setbacks he has suffered in the last 16 months.

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In March 1988, he missed a week of spring training with the Brewers after he was struck in the head with a beer bottle in a Mesa, Ariz., bar. He had cuts on his neck and face that required several stitches.

Kiefer, 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, said the scuffle “was a case of mistaken identity.”

“Some guy was in a fight with someone who looked like me,” he said. “He just came up behind me and hit me with the bottle.”

He had other problems away from the field. His wife, Karyn, had a miscarriage that summer.

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“This all hit me at the wrong time,” he said. “I had a great year in 1987 with 30 homers and 90 RBIs (in the minors) and then this happened.”

Kiefer’s problems continued after he left Milwaukee and signed with the Yankees as a free agent in November. In his first week of spring training, he popped a tendon in his right bicep while batting in a practice game.

Once again, bad timing. Kiefer said he was challenging for a spot with the Yankees.

“I was having a good spring training until that happened,” he said. “But the shoulder kept me out three weeks.”

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But his most crushing blow, the one he’s still bitter about, came on June 1. He tripled in the sixth inning of a game against Oklahoma City, and, after rounding third base, caught his ankle on the edge of the artificial turf.

“I didn’t feel anything snap,” he said. “It was a little sore and I thought I had a slight sprain. I got it taped and finished the game.”

Doctors X-rayed his ankle the next day and found no break.

Kiefer kept playing, but his batting average dipped from .310 to .294.

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Ten days after he first injured the ankle, doctors X-rayed it again, this time applying pressure to the area. That’s when they discovered the stress fracture.

“I was looking to be called up (to the Yankees),” Kiefer said. “It seemed like everything hit when I got to the major leagues to stay. I never had anything that kept me out more than a week.”

Kiefer tries to think positively. He hobbles to his stationary bike, which he rides every day. He lifts weights and plays catch. But he wishes he could do more.

“This hasn’t been much fun,” he said. “I (haven’t) been able to do anything.”

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Although the cast limits his movement, Kiefer has found plenty to keep him busy during his unplanned summer vacation. He goes fishing and plays with daughters Jackie, 7, and Ashley, 4.

He also stays in constant contact with his brother, Mark, who’s pitching with Milwaukee’s Class-A franchise in Beloit, Wis.

Kiefer often jokes with friends and family about his injury. He says his cast was uncomfortable at first, but he has grown used to it.

“There’s only one bad thing about it,” he said. “It smells bad.”

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Wayne Helm of the Bend (Ore.) Bucks pitched his first professional no-hitter in a 10-0 victory against Everett (Wash.) July 2. Helm, a right-hander from Laguna Hills, struck out 14 and walked none to raise his record to 2-0 in his first season with the Angels’ Class-A franchise.

Helm, who played at Pepperdine, also leads the Northwest League with 42 strikeouts.

The Iowa Cubs have placed former Cal State Fullerton pitcher Mike Harkey on the disabled list for the second time this season.

Harkey, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, has missed his last two starts with the Chicago Cubs’ triple-A franchise because of a cyst on his left knee. He twisted his knee in the second inning against Syracuse on June 25.

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