Velarde Season in Tatters


Randy Velarde was found to have a partial tear in the ulna collateral ligament of his right elbow, an injury that will require surgery and knock the Angel second baseman out for the entire season.

“Any time you have something like this taken away from you it’s really hard to accept,” said Velarde, who is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday. “You work all winter to prepare for the season, then some fluke thing like this happens. It’s pretty hard to take.”

Velarde, who hit .285 with 14 home runs and 54 runs batted in last season, felt a burning sensation in his arm after making a throw from the outfield during warmups for a spring training game March 9.


Velarde said he didn’t have a good grip on the ball, but Manager Terry Collins believes the muscles in Velarde’s forearm also may have been weakened by a line drive that hit him on the second day of spring training.

An MRI test in early March revealed a sprained ligament and strained forearm muscles, but when Velarde failed to respond well to therapy, another MRI was taken last weekend.

The partial tear was detected, and Velarde opted to have Dr. Lewis Yocum, team physician, perform surgery now instead of attempting further rehabilitation and a 1997 comeback.

Yocum said a total elbow reconstruction might be required, or the ligament may just need to be repaired. Either way, recovery time will be 10-12 months.

“It’s best to take care of it now and hope to come back next year,” said Velarde, who is in the second year of a three-year, $2.45-million contract. “It’s just strange, because after the first MRI they thought there was a 50-50 chance it was just a muscle tear. I was encouraged.”

Luis Alicea, who signed a minor league contract with the Angels in January after playing last season for St. Louis, will be the team’s regular second baseman, and Collins is confident the switch-hitter will be a more-than-adequate replacement.


“I think we’ll be fine there,” Collins said. “This is very disappointing because Randy is a big part of this team . . . but Alicea has some pop. If you give him a mediocre fastball, he can hit it out of the park. Signing him may turn out to be the biggest move of the winter.”

Alicea, who played for the Red Sox in 1995, hit .258 with a career-high 26 doubles and 42 RBIs for St. Louis last season, but he also led National League second basemen in errors with 24.

“They were mechanical mistakes--I fell into some bad habits,” Alicea said. “By the time I picked up what I was doing wrong, half the season had gone by. I would say about 98% of those came in the first half, but after the All-Star break I found out what I was doing wrong and corrected it.”

Utility players Craig Grebeck and Jack Howell can play second, and Collins said infielder Fausto Cruz was sent to triple-A Vancouver with the intention of playing every day and being ready to step in if Alicea is injured.


Chuck Finley, recovering from a broken facial bone, threw for four innings and made 60 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday and is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start for Class-A Lake Elsinore on Saturday night. Collins said Finley, who is on the 15-day disabled list, will make one more start for Lake Elsinore before joining the Angel rotation April 14 in New York. Barring injury, Shigetoshi Hasegawa likely will move to the bullpen, and either Pep Harris or Dennis Springer will be sent to Vancouver.



Anaheim Stadium, 7 p.m.

Radio--KTZN (710).

* UPDATE: The Angels can’t be too thrilled about facing a knuckleball pitcher in the second game of the season. Salmon has compared hitting Wakefield’s floaters to “playing pepper,” and former Angel designated hitter Chili Davis likened it to “playing Wiffle Ball.” The problem is, it often takes a game or two for players to regain their timing after facing a knuckler. Dickson has made tremendous strides since the start of spring training, pitching so well that the rookie has moved from one of three candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation to the Angels’ No. 2 starter.