Indians' Gutierrez Sidelined With Neck Injury

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Ricky Gutierrez's first season with the Cleveland Indians has been a real pain -- literally -- for the second baseman.

Gutierrez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a strained neck he said he has been playing with since the opening weeks of the season.

"I'm really concerned," said Gutierrez, who signed a three-year deal with the Indians in December after the club traded Roberto Alomar. "When you start talking about your neck, it's a worry. Hopefully, I'm going to be all right."

Pending further tests on Gutierrez, the Indians are calling the injury an upper neck strain.

Gutierrez said he hurt his neck while diving to stop a grounder against Detroit in April, and although he has had pain and stiffness all season, he has continued to play.

He did go on the DL in June with a strained groin.

"I'm not the type of guy who likes to be in the training room," he said. "I didn't think it was serious, but it's been lingering all year. I thought I could keep playing with it. It's really stiff."

Gutierrez said his neck has been sore and stiff for months. It hasn't bothered his hitting -- he's batting .336 in his last 41 games to raise his average to .275 -- but the injury has hampered him in the field.

"I always caught fly balls before," said Gutierrez, a converted shortstop. "I couldn't even look up to see them. Every time I try to do something quick, I feel it."

Gutierrez had missed the past four games with a bruised left thumb he suffered when he got hit by a line drive in batting practice. During the weekend series in Anaheim, he decided to tell Indians interim manager Joel Skinner about his neck.

"He mentioned to me it had been bothering him all season," Skinner said. "There's definitely something wrong. But we're still in the evaluation process."

Skinner said an MRI "showed something" in Gutierrez's neck that warranted placing him on the disabled list.

The Indians signed the 32-year-old to a three-year, $11.5 million free agent deal on Dec. 17.

To replace Gutierrez, the Indians recalled utilityman Greg LaRocca from Triple-A Buffalo. The 29-year-old was batting .293 with seven homers and 41 RBIs for the Bisons. He played 84 games in the infield and 13 in the outfield.

The Indians also transferred pitcher Bob Wickman from the 15-day to 60-day disabled list. Wickman is out for the season and is waiting to have ligament transfer surgery on his right elbow.


DON'T CALL HIM COVELLI: He already has one of baseball's catchiest nicknames, and now Coco Crisp wants to be known for more. The Indians rookie center fielder has made quite an impression in his first week in the big leagues.

Entering Monday night's game, Crisp was batting .353 (6-for-17) with two RBIs. In Friday's 5-4 loss at Anaheim, Crisp, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, had three hits, scored a run and stole a base.

On Sunday, he made a nice, diving catch.

"He seems to be in the right place at the right time, which is a good thing," said Indians interim manager Joel Skinner.

Crisp was acquired by the Indians on Aug. 6, completing the July 19 trade that sent pitcher Chuck Finley to the St. Louis Cardinals. The deal shocked Crisp, who for almost a month was only known to Indians fans as the "player to be named".

"Everything that has happened to me has been a surprise," Crisp said. "I got traded after the deadline. I forgot about the player to be named."

So where did he get the nickname?

"My grandmother started calling me Co," he said, "and everybody started clowning around with it. You can call me Coco."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)