Disc problem fells former MVP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Kansas City Royals outfielder Juan
Gonzalez is expected to miss the rest of the season with a lower
back injury.

Gonzalez has been sidelined since getting hurt May 22. He was
examined by spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles this
week after experiencing discomfort while on a rehabilitation
assignment with the rookie league Arizona Royals.

"Juan has an old disc problem that has been re-injured,"
Kansas City trainer Nick Swartz said Thursday. "The extent of that
injury basically is the same as what we saw back in May. He was
progressing through his rehab his past week and he felt the return
of symptoms. Monday he had increased pain. He had spasms again much
like we saw back at the end of May."

Gonzalez, a two-time MVP, hit .276 with five homers and 17 RBIs
in 33 games with the Royals before being injured.

"Juan needs to go back to a period of time of conservative
care, rest from baseball activities," Swartz said. "The doctor
didn't put out a timetable other than it will be about four weeks
before he will be re-evaluated and in all likelihood what you're
looking at is Juan not being able to return to active player,
competitive play for the rest of the 2004 season."

Surgery is not currently under consideration.

"Dr. Watkins said he feels there's a real good change given
enough time for this to rest and calm down, surgery would not have
to take place," Swartz said. "You go through the conservative
care and you see if it responds to the treatment and the