Lack of throwing makes Bagwell's status a mystery

3/17/2006 - NHL Jeff Bagwell Houston Astros + more

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jeff Bagwell has yet to make a meaningful throw while playing first base in three spring training games, so his chronically injured shoulder remains a mystery.

So can anyone, even the player himself, tell yet if he's healthy enough to play?

"No, I can't," he said. "I don't expect to be able to know whether I can play right now. It's a little too early. I've got to get through my soreness first. Then I can get a little bit later on and I can see what I can do if I do have to throw."

Astros manager Phil Garner isn't worried that he hasn't yet made a throw.

"To this point it's probably a good thing he hasn't had to do that," Garner said. "To what extent he could do it if he had to throw, I don't know."

The Astros think he is too hurt to play and have filed an insurance claim to recoup about $15.6 million of the $17 million he is guaranteed this season in the final year of his contract. He had surgery on his right shoulder last June.

"I can throw," he said. "It's just, can I make the play I need to make in a game? I can get a bunt and ... throw it to first and I can throw it to third. The days of me coming and throwing from my ankle to second base are over."

Prior to his spring debut last week, the four-time All-Star hadn't played first base in more than 10 months.

He played four innings of Houston's 7-0 win over Atlanta on Friday after lasting just two before sitting down with soreness in his last outing on Tuesday.

So was the soreness gone on Friday?

"No, no, there's soreness," he said. "There's always soreness. You don't even have to ask me those questions. But I got through it, and that's good."

Against the Braves, his fly ball that went to the warning track bounced off the glove of Atlanta center fielder Andruw Jones to score Craig Biggio.

"I'm not the greatest spring training player in the world, but I saw a bunch of pitches today, which is good," he said. "The more pitches I can see the better I'll get."

He said for now he's not too concerned with showing that he can throw.

"It's not my main focus," he said. "I think my main focus is just to get out there, throw the ball in between innings, get my legs under me and things like that."

Garner said he was "encouraged" by Bagwell's performance but that he wants to temper any enthusiasm he has to be fair to him.

"I thought Baggy looked better today than he has all spring," Garner said. "Each one little step is a good step but it's a process. It's not an event. Today is not going to determine whether he's good or bad."

Bagwell said he plans to play first base on Saturday but that if he's too sore he'll be the designated hitter.