Less than a week after making his American League debut, Angel pitcher Fernando Valenzuela was put on the 15-day disabled list Thursday when a treadmill test revealed possible heart abnormalities.
Valenzuela was given an initial examination last week by team physician Jules Rasinski before his first start with the Angels, and a review of those test results indicated a need for the treadmill procedure.
"Fernando feels nothing at all different," said Tony De Marco, Valenzuela's agent. "He was very surprised because he feels fine, but he agrees to go on the DL so they can make sure where those irregularities come from.
"He feels very normal, though. He's going to play golf (today)."
De Marco said Valenzuela would not comment on the matter until "he knows what it is."
The 30-year-old left-hander underwent a treadmill-thallium scan Thursday morning at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. The test indicated possible vessel irregularities, according to Rasinski, and more tests will be necessary.
Thallium is a radioactive isotope that is injected into the blood to give a picture of the patient's heart. The treadmill test consists of gradually increased exercise, followed by the imaging procedure, which can reveal areas of diminished blood supply.
"It's a test to see, basically, if he's got coronary artery disease," said an internist not involved in Valenzuela's care but familiar with the procedure. "The likely reason (the treadmill-thallium scan) was done was because the EKG showed possible signs of a small heart attack or cardiac ischemia."
Cardiac ischemia is a condition in which an insufficient amount of blood is flowing to the heart muscle. Cardiac ischemia could result in chest pain, also known as angina. Valenzuela did not complain of any physical problems after either of his two starts with the Angels.
Asked what, if any, medical significance should be attached to the Angels' decision to put Valenzuela on the disabled list, the physician said it could simply be a precautionary step to ensure that Valenzuela does not have heart disease. He also cautioned that diagnosing heart irregularities in athletes can be especially difficult because their bodies are conditioned at levels not seen in most patients.
Valenzuela has started two games for the Angels since signing with the club June 4. He is 0-2 with a 12.15 earned-run average and has given up 14 hits, three of them home runs, in 6 2/3 innings. He will not join the team during its 13-game trip.
The Angels will name a roster replacement for Valenzuela today. Left-hander Floyd Bannister, who has been on the disabled list with tendinitis and was scheduled to make a rehabilitation outing with Class-A Palm Springs tonight, is a likely candidate.
Valenzuela's spot in the starting rotation will probably be given to rookie right-hander Joe Grahe.
Valenzuela's contract with the Angels guarantees him $300,000, but could be worth as much as $1 million with incentives. The first incentive--$50,000--would come after his fifth start.