01/08/2004 7:00 PM ET
Injured Angels getting healthy
Glaus, Erstad, Eckstein should be ready for spring
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Three major questions for the 2004 Angels are well on the way to being answered.
|David Eckstein played in only 120 games in 2003 after logging 152 starts in 2002. (Paul Warner/AP)
Key starters Troy Glaus, Darin Erstad and David Eckstein, each of whom missed significant time in 2003 because of injuries, are on track to be ready for Spring Training.
According to his agent, third baseman Glaus' torn rotator cuff has recovered to the point where "Troy could play tomorrow."
"In the long run, I think this injury was a blessing in disguise for Troy," said Mike Nicotera, Glaus' agent.
"He's in the best shape of his life right now. He's been working with a trainer as well as doing his rehab exercises, doing very sport-specific stuff to strengthen the shoulder. He's started swinging the bat already, done a lot of throwing, and he's done a good deal of running already. He also got himself a little more educated on nutrition."
Glaus missed 71 games in 2003 because of the injury. He hit only 16 home runs a year after belting 30 and going on to become World Series MVP with seven more homers in the 2002 playoffs.
"Not playing for a while allowed Troy to take a step back," Nicotera said.
"There had not been a lot of months in his life when he wasn't playing baseball. He's hungrier than ever now. He's in a tremendous frame of mind. He can't wait to get back on the field."
Nicotera got to see that first-hand recently when he threw a ball around with his client.
"I thought we were going to play a little catch to get loose, you know, three or four throws, but he was throwing hard," Nicotera said. "He was serious."
Erstad is serious, too.
The Angels center fielder missed 95 games last year because of a nagging bout with right hamstring tendinitis.
Despite speculation that Erstad might play first base next year to take it easy on the hamstring (the Angels parted ways with their top three first baseman from last year, Scott Spiezio, Brad Fullmer and Shawn Wooten) the Angels have continued to say they plan on him playing center.
Erstad said Thursday that he wouldn't argue with that.
"I'm 100 percent confident I'll be able to do that," Erstad said.
"I'm pain-free. It's been a couple of months since I've had discomfort of any kind. I'm right on pace with my program, and the scarring has gone down correctly. It looks like a normal, clean, healthy tendon. They finally got all that junk out of there."
Erstad, who usually lives in North Dakota in the offseason, said he's been based in Southern California and has been running for a month, building endurance and getting his feet back under him. In the coming weeks, he said, his progression will increase to the point where he's ready for full baseball workouts leading into Spring Training.
Meanwhile, David Eckstein is back in his hometown of Sanford, Fla., and the Angels shortstop said Thursday he's excited to begin what he called "full-bore" baseball workouts next week.
Eckstein played in only 120 games in 2003 after logging 152 starts in 2002 because of a late-season case of piriformis syndrome, a condition where the piriformis muscle in the buttocks area interferes with the sciatic nerve, causing pain to shoot down the leg.
After the season, Eckstein went straight to Arizona to do two and a half weeks of physical therapy with Keith Kocher of the Tempe Sports Clinic. He then went to Anaheim, where he worked out with Angels trainer Ned Bergert and the club's medical staff -- and Erstad.
Eckstein said Thursday that the plan to strengthen and isolate the nerve with core exercise has worked and he feels a lot better.
"You can't even compare what I'm feeling now to what I felt during the season," Eckstein said.
"My range of motion is back. Now it's just a matter of getting stronger."
Eckstein said his rehab has consisted of a lot of upper body work and that he's resumed throwing and bunting and practicing hit-and-run plays.
Starting next week, he'll take the field at his alma mater, Seminole High School, to do full baseball workouts -- including running -- with a slew of locally based minor league prospects and big-leaguer Tim Raines Jr.
"It'll be great," Eckstein said. "Hitting, running, fielding, everything. I'm ready to go."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.