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Spine specialist says paralysis no longer a fear

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."