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Angels’ Johnny Giavotella talks about medical issue that sidelined him

Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella attemps to bunt against the Orioles during a game Aug. 9 in Anaheim.

Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella attemps to bunt against the Orioles during a game Aug. 9 in Anaheim.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There was nothing unusual, as far as Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella can recall, about an Aug. 20 game against the Chicago White Sox. Giavotella singled once in four at-bats and was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. There were no violent collisions in the field.

But when Giavotella woke up the next morning, nothing was normal.

“I was seeing double. I was seeing cross-eyed,” Giavotella said before Friday night’s game against the Texas Rangers. “I went into full panic mode. I was anxious. I laid back down, but it didn’t help. I didn’t know what was going on; that’s why I went to the hospital.”

Giavotella’s fears worsened when doctors said he could have multiple sclerosis, but tests ruled that out. The eventual diagnosis was “fourth cranial nerve palsy,” which causes weakness or paralysis to a small muscle behind the eye and can lead to double vision and cross-eyed vision.

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“It affects the muscle movements in the eye,” Giavotella said. “The nerves get irritated, and it needs to calm down. Eventually it’ll repair itself. I’ll be back to normal, but I still have double vision when I look to my left or I look down.”

Because of health information privacy rules, the team did not disclose Giavotella’s condition when it placed him on the disabled list on Aug. 25, saying only that Giavotella had a “personal medical issue.”

By the time the condition was diagnosed, the Angels embarked on a three-city, nine-game trip. Giavotella finally rejoined the team Friday, relieved that his condition isn’t life-threatening but unsure when he’ll be able to return.

“It’s gradually getting better,” Giavotella said, “but it’s going to take some time.”

The Angels have missed Giavotella, probably more than they thought. He is not a feared slugger, but with a .265 average, 21 doubles and 40 runs batted in, he was one of the team’s most consistent hitters.

He was versatile enough to bat leadoff, fifth or sixth, eighth or ninth. He delivered several clutch, late-game hits, most of them in the first two months of the season.

The Angels went 2-8 in the first 10 games without Giavotella before winning at Oakland on Tuesday and Wednesday. In his absence, Angels second basemen Grant Green, Taylor Featherston and Ryan Jackson were four for 35 (.114), with one home run, one RBI and one walk in 13 games.

“Johnny was a spark plug for us,” third base coach Gary DiSarcina said. “He brought good energy every day, and he got a lot of big hits, those two-out RBIs that give your team momentum and confidence and deflate the other team.”

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DiSarcina was the No. 9 hitter on the 1995 Angels team that had an 11-game lead in the American League West when the former shortstop suffered a left-thumb injury that sidelined him for seven weeks. The Angels blew the lead and lost to Seattle in a one-game playoff for the division title.

“I think any time you miss a regular, and it’s very similar to 1995, you try to plug that hole with guys who are not used to being in a role like that, and you tend to suffer over the long haul,” DiSarcina said.

“You can replace those guys for short periods, but Johnny has been out a long time now, and it’s tough. You’re asking guys to do things they’re not capable of doing.”

Giavotella is able to run, throw and do conditioning drills, but he can’t hit live pitching yet. Once his vision returns to normal, he should be good to go.

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“This issue can last a couple of days to a few weeks, so I’m just being patient with it, taking it a day at a time,” Giavotella said. “Hopefully I’ll wake up one morning and it will be clear.”

Up next

Right-hander Jered Weaver (6-10, 4.94 ERA) will oppose Texas left-hander Derek Holland (2-1, 2.82) at Angel Stadium on Saturday at 6 p.m. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna


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