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Gruber Takes Turn for Worse : Angels: Continuing neck and shoulder problems will sideline the third baseman.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kelly Gruber’s season has taken another frustrating turn.

He will be going on the disabled list, again. The only question is: how long?

“I’m not going to look into a crystal ball or read you any Tarot cards,” Gruber said before Friday’s game between the Angels and the Cleveland Indians. “It’s got to be a period of non-activity. I’ve got to put the glove down and try to get healthy.”

That would be a first this season.

Since being acquired in an offseason trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, Gruber has had nothing but health problems. First, he announced that he had two bulging disks in his neck, which still cause him great pain. Then, doctors discovered he had a torn rotator cuff. Toronto officials have denied knowing about the injuries.

Gruber has had shoulder surgery, gone on the 60-day disabled list and played in only 18 games this season. He will be examined Sunday by Dr. Robert Watkins.

At that time, he will placed on the disabled list and replaced by either Damion Easley, who is eligible to come off the disabled list, or a minor league player, according to Manager Buck Rodgers.

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“If Easley is ready, we’ll go with him, or we’ll get help from the minors,” Rodgers said. “It’s a frustrating situation.”

Rodgers has a focal point for that anger.

“Kelly got here and announced at his first press conference that he had a bulging disk,” Rodgers said. “The league president said to work things out, but they haven’t been. There has got to be some retribution some time.”

Gruber’s frustration isn’t so easily relieved.

He is hitting .277 with three home runs and nine runs batted in since being recalled from his rehabilitation assignment on June 4. But he has played with pain every day.

“People look at the numbers and they look good,” Gruber said. “But if I can’t go out there and make the plays for my pitcher and teammates, then I have to be a man. I have to stand up and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ ”

Tuesday in Oakland, he’d had enough. Three times, he dived to his left for ground balls and came up empty. Each time, he looked more tentative.

Gruber finally removed himself from the game and returned home Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum.

Gruber, who played in the World Series with the Blue Jays last year, said he has experienced headaches that are related to his neck injury. He spent 10-15 minutes before each game trying to get his neck loose and has even paid for back massages two or three times a week.

Nothing has helped.

“I’ve tried to stay optimistic,” Gruber said. “I’ve tried to play through it. If there was progress, if it was getting better, then I would continue to play through it. But the more success I had, the more I felt it. That’s not a good sign.”

Said Rodgers: “I saw Kelly play at 24-25 and I’ve seen him play this season. It’s not the same player.”

Whether he ever will be again is still up in the air.

“It not a matter of my baseball career now, it’s my life,” Gruber said. “I can’t play baseball and I can’t play golf. I guess I can lay on the beach still. But all activity has to stop.”


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