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03/04/09 2:05 PM EST
Choo's injury complicated for Indians
With sore left triceps, outfielder obligated to Korean Classic club
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Shin-Soo Choo has now joined the Tribe's growing list of the walking wounded. But Choo, nursing a sore left triceps while preparing with the South Korean team for the World Baseball Classic in Japan, is not under the supervision of the Tribe's athletic training staff. And that's caused an uncomfortable situation in the Indians' camp. The Indians were investigating the extent of Choo's injury, trying to get a handle on whether or not they should object to his participation in the Classic. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff has been in communication with the Korean team's trainer, and general manager Mark Shapiro was working with the union and Major League Baseball. A New York Times report from Japan claimed the Indians had filed a grievance to try to prevent Choo from playing, but that report was not confirmed by the club. "Right now, we're in the process of getting the complete info as to the problem he's encountered," Shapiro said Wednesday morning. "From there, we'll determine whether or not we object." Shapiro said he hopes to have more information in the next day or two. The triceps muscle is just above the left elbow Choo had surgically repaired in 2007. Although South Korea manager In-suk Kim told the AP otherwise, Choo's status for South Korea's Classic opener against Taiwan on Friday at the Tokyo Dome is not in the Indians' hands. Choo's injury is not considered serious at this stage, but, if the Indians had their preference, he'd be on a plane bound for Arizona right about now. "We have an athlete with some issues," Shapiro said. "We'd rather have him diagnosed and treated here, regardless of how serious it is." But when he left the Tribe's camp on Feb. 24 to join his Korean teammates for training in Hawaii, Choo officially became the property of his Classic club. The Korean team will decide whether or not he plays Friday and beyond. The Indians were hesitant to allow the 26-year-old Choo, slated to be their starting right fielder this season, to participate in the Classic in the first place, given that he missed the first two months of the '08 season after Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in '07. The club had the option of prohibiting him from joining the Korean team. But they knew how much the opportunity meant to Choo, who is the only Major Leaguer on the Korean squad. "Out of respect for him and his desire to play and out of respect to their government to have him, we let him go," Shapiro said. But Choo did leave with some strict stipulations. In the first round of the Classic, he is forbidden from playing in the outfield more than one of the potential three games. In the second round, he can only appear in the outfield in two games, and they must not be consecutive. Choo, who batted .309 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs in 94 games last season, was not dealing with any soreness when he left the Indians' camp. "If he was," Shapiro said, "we wouldn't have let him leave." The Choo situation is one of many the Indians are dealing with, from a medical standpoint. Outfielder Grady Sizemore pulled out of his commitment to Team USA in the Classic because of a strained left groin. Additionally, closer Kerry Wood (sore lower back), reliever Adam Miller (right middle finger soreness), outfielder David Dellucci (injured left thumb) and reliever Joe Smith (viral infection) have all had their spring schedules altered, and that's in addition to Travis Hafner's recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. As it stands, none of the above injuries -- Choo's included -- are expected to prevent players from being ready for the start of the regular season. "We've got a bunch of nicks and bruises," Shapiro said. "We're a little banged up. It's something we've got to monitor as we go."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.