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Padres Hope for Clark’s Quick Return

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although the Padres remain hopeful that first baseman Jack Clark will be back in action in a few days, the doctor who examined him Sunday morning said that Clark likely will not be able to play again for at least a week.

Clark, who suffered a severe sprain of the lower back muscles Saturday, was diagnosed Sunday morning by Chicago Cub orthopedist Michael Schaffer, who made the prognosis.

“I told him that it would be best that he remain in Chicago for a few days to stay off his feet,” Schaffer said, “but he was adamant about going with the team. He shouldn’t be going on a plane, he should be off his feet.

“The prognosis for him looks good, but it’s still going to take about seven days.”

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Said Jack McKeon: “You can’t go always by what these doctors say. Jack always seems to come back about five days faster than everyone else from these things.”

Clark, who will undergo whirlpool and heat treatments, and has been prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, said: “I really don’t feel too good right now. It’s really sore. The doctor wanted me to stay in a hospital for a couple of days here, and really didn’t want me flying, but I thought it’d be best for me to go with the team so I can get treatment.”

In the meantime, Clark will be replaced at first base by center fielder Joe Carter, McKeon said. Carter has played 183 career games at first base, and is considered an above-average first baseman with a .988 fielding percentage.

Fred Lynn, who has been platooning in left field, likely will move to center field, McKeon said. When the Padres face a right-handed pitcher, Lynn will play center, Bip Roberts will play left, and Mike Pagliarulo will play third base. When they face a left-hander, Roberts is expected to stay at third base, and either Darrin Jackson or Shawn Abner will start in left field.

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The lineup also will have to be juggled in Clark’s absence, with Roberts moving back to the leadoff spot, and second baseman Roberto Alomar batting third.

“I think we’re deep enough where we can handle it,” McKeon said, “but any time you take a Jack Clark out of your lineup it makes a difference.”

Clark, who is batting .254 with five homers and 10 RBIs, injured his back in the third inning when he made a diving stab of Dave Clark’s ground ball down the first-base line. He continued playing, and even collected three hits in the second game of the doubleheader against the Cubs, but he was in so much pain Sunday that he had difficulty bending over to put on his shoes.

“The best thing I can do right now is stay off my feet,” Clark said. “Believe me, I’ll be back as soon as I can. I just don’t know how long that will be.”

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