Reliever's status uncertain for rest of NLCS

Updated: October 19, 2004, 1:56 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

HOUSTON -- St. Louis right-hander Julian Tavarez broke his left hand during a dugout tantrum in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series, and it was uncertain Monday when the reliever would pitch again.

The excitable Tavarez tried to trash the bench shortly after giving up a tiebreaking home run to Carlos Beltran in the seventh inning of Houston's 6-5 win Sunday.

Julian Tavarez
Getty ImagesTavarez's on-field anger turned into a phone-punching tantrum that might leave St. Louis a pitcher short for the rest of the NLCS.

Before Game 5, the Cardinals told ESPN that Tavarez broke three bones in his left hand.

"He punched the phone, so that's when it happened," manager Tony La Russa said. "I don't know if he'll pitch tonight, but he'll pitch in the series."

Tavarez became the second prominent pitcher to recently hurt himself in a fit of anger. Yankees righty Kevin Brown broke his left hand when he punched a clubhouse wall in early September, and did not pitch much before the playoffs.

The Cardinals and Astros were tied at 2 going into Monday night's game, and La Russa hoped to have Tavarez back soon.

"When I left the clubhouse, they were fashioning some kind of splint," he said. "I think he can pitch."

Tavarez's hand was placed in a soft, plastic splint with his last two fingers immobilized. He tested it inside his glove during batting practice, catching some tosses in the outfield.

Tavarez was 7-4 with four saves and a 2.38 ERA in 77 games during the regular season. He is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in five games during this postseason.

La Russa asked the Cardinals' medical staff how it was possible Tavarez might recover so soon when Brown missed a lot of time.

"I got the explanation: He had a pin inserted and had some kind of cast or big splint that would have made it impossible for him to function," La Russa said.

Earlier Monday, the Astros apologized to the Cardinals, saying they erred by showing a replay of Tavarez's antics on the stadium scoreboard.

"We made a mistake in judgment by playing that," Astros spokesman Jay Lucas said. "We meant no disrespect to the Cardinals' organization.

"We apologize for it," he said. "We want to show both teams in a positive light. It won't happen again."

Lucas said the entertainment operators at Minute Maid Park who showed the replay did not lose their jobs and were not disciplined.

Before Game 5, La Russa said he had not gotten an apology directly from the Astros.

"No, they haven't. They don't have to. They haven't said anything," he said. "So they had a hiccup, they're still classy. You don't forget how they've been for years. It's not a big deal."

A day earlier, La Russa was bothered.

"I think ever since I've been around, since 1996, the Astros are as classy an organization as anything I've met in the National League," he said Sunday. "But even Sinatra clears his throat, and I think that was below their standards and that was disappointing."

Tavarez, who has been suspended several times in the past, angered the Astros right after Beltran homered when he threw a pitch over Jeff Bagwell's head. They shouted at each other, and Tavarez threw up his arms.

First baseman Albert Pujols and other Cardinals came to the mound at that point, trying to settle down Tavarez. Plate umpire Mike Winters issued warnings to both teams, and there was no more trouble.

When the inning ended, Tavarez bent over as he approached the bench and appeared to scream at himself. He slammed his glove on the dugout roof, tried to yank the bullpen phone off its mounting and threw down a water cooler.

"I just lost my cool," Tavarez said, completely calm after the game. "I was not throwing at him. It was not intentional."

Said Bagwell: "These are heated games. That was my initial reaction."

Tavarez was suspended for 10 games for applying a foreign substance to a ball in late August, and the penalty was later cut to eight games.

In 2003, he drew a three-game suspension for fighting during a brawl while with Pittsburgh. In spring training with the Cubs in 2001, he was suspended for three games after a flying kick at San Francisco's Russ Davis.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.