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  Wed, June 30, 2004


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A real cold shoulder
Pitcher elbowed aside by Blue Jays after arm injury
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

The Blue Jays have moaned long and loud about injuries.

Ever heard them mention the loss of Jayson Durocher?

We didn't think so.

Signed to a minor-league contract Dec. 27, Durocher, 29, pitched for the Jays this spring and underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his damaged right elbow June 18.

The Jays said the injury was a pre-existing condition, voided his contract and therefore didn't have to pay for his operation.

So, for three frustrating months Durocher sat at home in Scottsdale, Ariz., unable to afford an operation, the clock ticking on his one-year recovery time for the procedure.

Finally, the Jays agreed to pay for the operation in mid-June, pending the results of an investigation by the commissioner's office. Who pays the doctor's bills is still in litigation.

Durocher, who had his surgery performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Anaheim Angels club doctor, who said his ligament was almost completely torn.

He didn't see the injury as pre-existing.

"One morning I spoke with (Jays general manager) J.P. Ricciardi in Dunedin, the day after pitching and I asked 'how was I?' and he said I was 93-to-95 m.p.h., consistently."

Can a reliever with a damaged elbow light up a gun like that?

"I passed two of their physicals, one in Arizona before I signed and another in Dunedin," Durocher said. "I threw three bullpens, two batting practices and pitched in five games."

So, how injured was he? Durocher made his spring debut with the Jays on March 6, in a 14-5 loss to the New York Yankees. At the time, management mentioned him as being in the picture for the closer's job.

He gave up two hits, walked two and allowed five unearned runs in 2/3 of an inning.

Next, he allowed a run in an inning in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds March 11. He then allowed an unearned run in a 7-1 loss against the Boston Red Sox two days later.

"I felt something against Boston," Durocher said. "I came in the next day, couldn't wash my hair and couldn't open doors."

His next outing, he allowed two hits and two runs in 1/3 of an inning in a 5-4 loss on March 16 to the Minnesota Twins.

"I couldn't get the ball to the plate against Minnesota, it was time to speak up," Durocher said. "They said I had a partially torn ligament and wanted me to rehab it.

"I went for a second opinion to see Dr. James Andrews, but it wasn't really a second opinion, since he works for the Jays."

On March 19, the Jays announced Durocher had been re-assigned to the minors. Two days later, when he was home, Durocher received a call from farm director Dick Scott.

"He said I was a free agent and could sign with anyone," Durocher said. "I said, 'Wait a second, you can't void my contract.' "

Rather than having surgery at the end of March, which would have started the one-year rehab, Durocher was left to sit and wait to see who would pay: The Milwaukee Brewers (his 2003 team) or the Jays.

"It was almost like they were out to get me," Durocher said. "All they had to do was pay one month's salary and put me on workman's compensation, which they don't have to pay."

Durocher missed most of the 2003 because of elbow and shoulder problems. He made it into just 15 games -- six with Milwaukee and nine in the Brewers system, working 16 1/3 innings -- because of shoulder and elbow problems.

"Now that I've had surgery, I won't be ready to go next spring," he said. "I should have had the surgery in March, rather than waiting three months.

"It has been extremely stressful."