tampabay.com

Snowball still rolling: Cantu to DL

The Rays' star 2B has a broken foot, knocking him out two-three weeks.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 27, 2006


NEW YORK - Joe Maddon says he will never say things can't get worse, a philosophy that has served him well given how his first month as manager of the Devil Rays has gone.

The Rays found out Wednesday they will be without another key player for an extended period after second baseman Jorge Cantu was diagnosed with a left foot fracture that will sideline him two to three weeks.

Cantu joined shortstop Julio Lugo, third baseman Aubrey Huff and centerfielder Rocco Baldelli on the disabled list.

"It's amazing," Cantu said. "It's unbelievable. It's like a cancer. It's becoming a cancer right now. We need to find a way to stop it. Of course, injuries can't be helped. They're going to happen regardless. But it's just funny how it's happening so fast and so quick during the season for us. ...

"I don't know whatever the hell it is, but whatever it is it needs to go away from here, that's for sure. It's killing us. Just killing us."

The Rays will explore adding a second baseman, with veteran free agent Frank Menechino a possibility (and Tony Womack not), but are more likely to fill the hole from within, with a decision expected today.

Ty Wigginton, who has been filling in for Huff at third, is likely to move to second, where he can share time with Nick Green, and Russell Branyan and Sean Burroughs would be used at third. The Rays could fill the roster spot by promoting veteran utilityman Greg Norton, who was on the verge of making the team before he was injured late in spring training, though they would have to take someone off the 40-man roster.

Cantu was injured April 7 when he fouled a ball off his foot and missed five starts, but he returned to play 10 games and got hits in each. But he was not comfortable, and an examination Wednesday by New York foot and ankle specialist Dr. William Hamilton revealed a small nondisplaced fracture of the navicular bone on the top of his foot.

Cantu is able to hit and throw and could have continued to play with the pain, albeit with limited mobility, but that could have led to a more serious injury.

"I didn't want to risk it anymore," he said. "If it was cracked, I didn't want to crack it more."

Despite losing three-fourths of his infield and four of the projected top six hitters in his lineup, Maddon refused to get down.

"It's a baseball situation," he said. "We're going to get better. We're trying to grow things here. We've had some unfortunate moments. I'm not discouraged. I'm not upset. I'm not anything.

"We've got a game to play tonight and we've got plenty of major-league players here to do that. We're not going to make excuses, and there's no reason to. That's just how I look at it."

Though the news on Cantu was bad, Baldelli, Lugo and Huff are healing and the Rays may have their full team on the field by mid to late May.

"We're getting back an All-Star team in three weeks or something," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.

Baldelli, out since late spring with a left hamstring strain, played in an extended spring training game for the second straight day, ran well (4.15 seconds to first) and threw a runner out at the plate. Baldelli, who missed last season after knee and elbow surgeries, was also hit on the wrist by a pitch - but sustained no further injury.

"He did well in two distinct areas today what we need to see that he is well," Maddon said.

Baldelli is on schedule to rejoin the Rays around May 5, and Lugo (abdominal strain) and Huff (left knee sprain) could be a week to 10 days behind him. Huff is doing so well he may take batting practice with the team this weekend at Tropicana Field.