Spine specialist says paralysis no longer a fear

Updated: April 6, 2004, 5:25 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners third baseman Scott Spiezio will miss several weeks with a soft tissue injury in the middle of his back.

Doctors said Tuesday he does not have a herniated disc. No timetable was given for his return.

"It's going to be weeks instead of months," trainer Rick Griffin said. "He's ready for therapy."

Spiezio was relieved after meeting with a Seattle spine specialist. He said an earlier diagnosis of his persistent back spasms suggested permanent paralysis was among the possible results.

"The biggest thing is that before they were telling me there could be permanent damage -- paralysis and that kind of stuff," Spiezio said before the opener against his old team, the Anaheim Angels. "Now, they're not doing that. It's a huge difference."

Griffin emphasized that the initial diagnosis was "an extreme situation" and included several possible outcomes. Team officials are confident Spiezio will be able to return after rehabilitation.

"When a doctor talks to an athlete, you have to be careful," Griffin said. "If the first thing out of your mouth is the worst scenario, that's all the athlete hears. He won't hear the rest of the conversation."

Spiezio suited up and was cheered after being introduced during opening-day ceremonies. While the other Mariners jogged down a red carpet from the outfield, he walked from the dugout to his place on the first base line.

"I wasn't doing things that were hurting me before, especially running, which was the biggest problem," he said. "Hitting wasn't a problem. I'm hoping that pretty soon they'll let me start swinging again."

Spiezio won't accompany the team over the next week on a road trip to Oakland and Anaheim. He will see a physical therapist, possibly up to twice daily, then be re-evaluated when the Mariners return April 16 to face Texas.

The injury occurred March 27. Spiezio jammed his back when he stepped on the mound while catching a popup in a spring training game.

"If you've ever stepped off the curb or moved real quickly, you might get a little back spasm," Griffin said. "That's kind of what happened."

Spiezio said he visited three doctors, but doesn't feel any need to see another.

"I don't know. I like this one," he said, laughing. "I don't know if I want to press my luck."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press