MRI shows compression fracture near elbow
The Giants know that Jerome Williams can be a solid starting pitcher for the Cubs, and that now that David Aardsma has had the opportunity to start for two months in Double-A Norwich that he might be back on track to the big leagues. But the Giants also know that while they have hung around without Barry Bonds, Armando Benitez and, until this week, a healthy Jason Schmidt, they were not going to survive without helping a bullpen that Felipe Alou had to tax; they led the majors in mid-innings changes and one-batter appearances.
"We like what Tyler Walker has done as closer and believe he can continue to do the job," Giants assistant general manager Ned Colletti said. "But we had to get help in front of him. [LaTroy] Hawkins has got the stuff, he's never had the good fortune to work in a pitcher's park, and we think it will benefit him to get out of Chicago.
"When we get Benitez back, then we could be very strong."
Even though they believe they gave up a lot, the Giants know that getting Hawkins on May 28 is far more significant than getting him on July 28. Cubs GM Jim Hendry knew that when weighing whether to get two arms for his beleaguered staff. Not that the Cubs are running up the white flag. They are retooling, and Hendry was talking to teams about Mike Remlinger before the veteran left-hander hurt his finger in the dreaded chair incident and had to go on the DL.
An MRI showed a compression fracture near the elbow, trainer Mark O'Neal said.
Prior, O'Neal and Cubs manager Dusty Baker would not speculate how long Prior would be out.
"It could have been a lot worse, it could have been my career," Prior said. "Everyone knows the risks going out there and playing.
"It's a game that's supposed to be fun, but there are some inherent risks that go with it," he added. "I'll be back. I've been hit before and it's no big deal."
This is Prior's fifth trip to the disabled list since he made his debut in 2002, and second this year. He began this season on the DL with inflammation in the elbow, delaying his first start until April 13. In nine starts this year, he is 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA.
Prior's injury is another blow for Chicago's already depleted rotation. Kerry Wood has been on the disabled list since May 1 with a shoulder injury.
The Cubs recalled right-hander Roberto Novoa from Iowa of the Pacific Coast League to take Prior's roster spot. Novoa was 1-1 with Iowa with three saves and a 2.78 ERA. In an earlier recall to the Cubs from April 27 to May 9, he was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in five games.
They also obtained pitchers Jerome Williams and David Aardsma from San Francisco for reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who had been demoted after starting the season as Chicago's closer. Williams, 23, was San Francisco's youngest 10-game winner since 1975 last year but had been sent to the minors after a slow start this season.
With the Cubs paying most of Hawkins' salary this season, Giants general manager Brian Sabean was willing to give up two talented prospects to get help -- even in the form of a struggling reliever who has been derided by Chicago's fans and media since last season.
"We're in desperate need to rearrange the bullpen," Sabean said. "We followed [Hawkins] for the better part of May. I believe he needs a change of scenery. He'll fit in nice in our seventh and eighth inning."
Chicago general manager Hendry said both new pitchers will start in the minor leagues.
When asked if the trade had anything to with Prior's injury Hendry replied: "If we could have made this deal a week or two ago, we would have."
The Cubs signed Hawkins as a free agent before the 2004 season, hoping he could help shore up a shaky bullpen. He'd set a major league record when he converted his first 23 save chances with the Minnesota Twins in 2000 and 2001. Though he lost his job to Eddie Guardado the next year, he became one of the best setup men in the majors, going 9-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 2003.
But Hawkins struggled in Chicago, and became the favorite target of unhappy fans. He blew nine save chances last year, when he took over as closer following an injury to Joe Borowski.
The Cubs hoped to use him as a setup man this year, but he was forced into the closer's role again after Borowski got hurt in spring training. Hawkins blew three of seven save chances before Baker replaced him with Ryan Dempster on May 9. He's 1-4 with a 3.32 ERA this year.
"I wasn't surprised. That's part of the business," said Hawkins, who's expected to be in San Francisco on Sunday. "I'm going to miss the fellas, I'll tell you that much."
Giants slugger Moises Alou was Hawkins' teammate in Chicago last season, when Wrigley Field fans began to boo him regularly.
"I was happy when I heard about (the trade),'' Alou said. "He's a nice guy. He needed a change of scenery. I know he's going to help."
In 98 games with the Cubs, Hawkins was 6-8 with a 2.76 ERA.
"We've been getting a number of calls about LaTroy lately and in the best interest of LaTroy and his career, I think it's a good situation for him," Hendry said. "LaTroy's a good guy. He's been a good teammate, and I think he felt that he would have preferred to fight through it and do it here. But I think he understood first and foremost I'm supposed to do what's best for the ballclub."
Aardsma, San Francisco's top selection in the 2003 draft, is the career saves leader at Rice University. He pitched briefly in the Giants' bullpen last season, but was converted to a starting pitcher this spring at Double-A Norwich.
O'Neal said Prior's fracture was inside the bone and not on the surface.
"The outer layer of the bone was not compromised," O' Neal said. "That would be a linear fracture, which he does not have. He has a compression, basically the inside of the bone is compressed.
"We feel very fortunate that this is the fracture he has. It's not something where we know we have to shut him down for four to six weeks."
But O'Neal would not predict Prior's rehab schedule.
"This is basically on Mark's timeframe," O'Neal said. "When he has a full, pain-free range of motion and no edema, we'll progress from there. There's no way I can give you a time frame for this.
Prior said he isn't worried about a long-term problem.
"I love to listen to everyone dwell on the fact how many times I've been on the DL," Prior said. "But I've only really been on the DL once for a throwing related problem. This is just something freakish that happened and I have no control over.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press