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Kendall's gruesome injury stuns teammates

Monday, July 05, 1999

By Paul Meyer, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The depth of the feeling in the Pirates' clubhouse after their 4-3 loss to Milwaukee yesterday could be measured by the silence.

 
  Jason Kendall sustains a broken right ankle as he tries to beat out a bunt yesterday. The injury left Kendall in agony -- and the Pirates without their starting catcher for the rest of the season. (Keith Srakocic, Associated Press)

Especially that of Al Martin.

Usually one of the most talkative Pirates on any subject, Martin yesterday politely and emotionally declined to talk about Jason Kendall.

"He's my best friend," Martin explained.

Martin will have to do without his best friend on the field for the rest of this season.

And the Pirates as a whole will have to try to cope with losing one of their more emotional players and one of their better offensive cogs.

"He's kind of the heart and soul of this team," Manager Gene Lamont said, choking back tears. "He's not someone you can replace. Everybody else will just have to play a little harder -- if that's possible."

Kendall broke his ankle playing hard and trying to pick up a moribund team that was being no-hit by Milwaukee right-hander Steve Woodard in the fifth inning.

Woodard had retired 13 straight batters, striking out seven.

With the listless Pirates down, 3-0, Kendall sought to provide a spark.

He dropped an almost perfect bunt down the third base line. As Kendall steamed toward first base, third baseman Jeff Cirillo made a barehand pickup and whipped a throw to Mark Loretta.

Kendall was out on a bang-bang-snap play.

His right foot appeared to catch the foul line side of the bag, and everybody watching the play knew instantly this was a bad, bad injury. Kendall's ankle flopped -- useless -- and he crumpled to the turf.

 
  More Pirates coverage:

Columnist Ron Cook: A community feels his pain

Schmidt vs. Lieber in battle of buddies

Dad in his thoughts as Anderson debuts

The Scouting Report: Pirates vs. Chicago

Pirates Notebook, 7/5/99

Pirates minor-league report, 7/5/99

'79 champs: July 5, 1979

   
 

It was the kind of injury nobody wanted to look at.

"It was pretty nasty really," first base coach Joe Jones said. "And I didn't want [Kendall] to look at it. They put a towel over it. It was an emotional thing."

"I've never seen anything like that," Lamont said, "and I hope I don't have to again. You could tell right away it was bad."

"I'm still nauseous," Loretta said. "It looked like he had a wooden leg. The bone was sticking out and it was perfectly rounded. I've never seen anything like that.

"His foot was pointing one way and the bone was the other way. It went through his sock and everything."

"It was a sick injury," Brian Giles said. "I didn't want to look at it."

"I think everybody was in shock," said Keith Osik, Kendall's close friend who becomes the regular catcher now. "It's really tough. It's just a tough time for all of us. Guys in [the clubhouse] know how much he means to this team. This is unbelievably hard for some of us to take."

"He's the biggest part of our team," Giles said.

Kendall immediately left the field on a stretcher and was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he underwent surgery about 5 p.m. He'll probably be hospitalized for at least a couple days.

The early prognosis was that the Pirates anticipate Kendall being ready for spring training, but it's undetermined how much speed he'll lose.

"You can't tell for sure how he'll come back," trainer Kent Biggerstaff said, "but we think he'll be very close to 100 percent."

Kendall's pain was felt in the Brewers' clubhous, too. Normally a team that sweeps a three-game series on the road would be ebullient. The Brewers were subdued as word spread of the seriousness of Kendall's injury.

"It's just terrible," Manager Phil Garner said. "It puts a pall over a great, successful game for us. You don't like to see other players get hurt. We'll be thinking about him."

 
  Pirate Al Martin, right, reacts as Jason Kendall is carried off the field after breaking his ankle in the fourth inning against Milwaukee. (Keith Srakocic, Associated Press)

Pirates General Manager Cam Bonifay's thoughts soon turned to what the Pirates do in the immediate aftermath of losing Kendall for the season.

In the short run, the Pirates will have a catcher from their minor league system here today -- either Tim Laker or Chris Tremie from Class AAA Nashville or Yamid Haad from Class AA Altoona.

However, Bonifay and his staff will scour the waiver wire for a long-term replacement, too. One possibility is left-handed batting Jeff Reed.

"We'll look at a bigger picture after we get a catcher here for [today]," Bonifay said. "We'll look at getting a catcher here who is the best backup combination with Keith Osik."

Despite the shock they felt over Kendall's injury, the Pirates still had a game to play and to try to win.

"It took a lot out of our team right there," Giles said, "but we still managed to put ourselves in a position to win. That says a lot about the character of this team."

The first thing the Pirates did after Kendall left was to end Woodard's no-hit bid. Warren Morris drove the next pitch into left-center field for a double.

Then the Pirates scored twice in the sixth inning to shave their deficit to 3-2.

Martin lined a two-out double into right-center field. He scored on Freddy Garcia's double into center field. After Giles walked, Kevin Young dropped a single into center field that scored Garcia.

Only a great stop by Marquis Grissom of a high hop off the hot turf kept Giles from scoring, too.

Osik, whose emotions had to be running amok, ended that inning by grounding into a fielder's choice.

The Pirates tied the game in the eighth inning on Ed Sprague's first career pinch-hit home run, a leadoff shot into the left field seats off left-hander Mike Myers.

However, the Brewers won the game in the ninth on Geoff Jenkins' leadoff home run off Brad Clontz.

That gave Milwaukee a sweep of their six games in Three Rivers Stadium this season.

But in light of what happened at first base in the bottom of the fifth inning, it's doubtful if any of the Brewers thought much about that on their way to the airport late yesterday afternoon.



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