Bulged disk in neck further delays season debut for A's Loaiza

Updated: April 3, 2007, 10:17 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza has a bulged disk in his neck that will delay his season debut by at least a week.

A's assistant general manager David Forst said an MRI taken in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday showed the inflamed disk was the cause of the spasms that Loaiza was having in his right trapezius muscle.

"It's not herniated. Not surgical. It's something that can be treated," Forst said before Tuesday's game against Seattle, echoing manager Bob Geren's belief that the injury is not serious.

Loaiza, who was 11-9 last year in the first season of a three-year, $21,375,000 contract with the A's, is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 25 and was scheduled to start Thursday for Triple-A Sacramento. He is eligible to come off the DL on April 9.

Now, the A's No. 2 starter will not throw again until April 10 -- and Forst said that will merely be a game of catch on flat ground. It is unknown when his first rehabilitation start will come, but Forst said the team still wants Loaiza to have at least one minor league outing before he is activated.

"We'll wait until after (next) Tuesday to see how he feels," Forst said when asked when that rehabilitation start might come.

Loaiza traveled with the A's to Seattle for the season-opening series in anticipation of throwing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But Monday's session was called off, and the A's sent Loaiza back to the Bay Area to see San Francisco specialist Dr. Robert Rovner. Rovner prescribed physical therapy plus ice and stimulation treatments in the neck.

Loaiza said Monday that the spasms and tightness in his right trapezius are worse than the similar pain he had in his left trapezius that sidelined him from last April 29 through June 8. His 11 wins after that tied for fourth-most in the AL during that span.

Right-hander Joe Blanton moved up in the rotation to pitch Tuesday, when Loaiza was originally scheduled to start. Right-hander Chad Gaudin -- whose 55 games for the A's last season were all in relief -- is taking Blanton's usual spot Thursday at the Los Angeles Angels.

Geren is leaning toward Gaudin also taking Loaiza's second turn in the rotation, April 10 at home against the Chicago White Sox.

"More than likely, we'll stick with Chad," Geren said. "It might have something to do with how he pitches (Thursday), but probably not."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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