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Rays' Saunders Leaves Hospital


Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Tony Saunders, who broke his left arm delivering a pitch, was released from Bayfront Medical Center Thursday.

Saunders broke the humerus bone, which runs from the shoulder to the elbow, in the Devil Rays' 8-6 loss to the Texas Rangers Wednesday night. He will miss the rest of the season.

"Tony is still in some discomfort, but the doctors feel that will go away in the next day or so," Tampa Bay general manager Chuck LaMar said. "He's in fine spirits."

Doctors set the bone Wednesday night and a team official said no surgery will be required. The injury will require at least three to four months of healing time.

While remaining optimistic the 25-year-old Saunders might return next season, LaMar admitted the left-hander faces a tough battle.

"We're going to do everything we possibly can to help Tony both physically and mentally. He's going to have a battle with both," LaMar said. "If everything falls right, Tony will pitch in the major leagues next year ... but there's so much water to go under the bridge there's just no way the doctors or this organization and, more importantly, Tony can point because it's so far down the road."

Saunders broke the same bone Dave Dravecky broke while throwing his final pitch in the majors for San Francisco on Aug. 15, 1989.

Cincinnati's Tom Browning broke his left arm while throwing a pitch in a game in 1994 and never was an effective major league pitcher again.

Cleveland's John Smiley broke his left humerus while warming up for a game in 1997 and has not pitched in the majors since. He remains with the team, hoping for a comeback.

LaMar spoke with several baseball officials Thursday, including Cleveland general manager John Hart -- who was involved with Smiley's rehab program.

"You have a situation that a gentleman that made his living by using that left arm has to eventually get over the tramatic experience of the pitch he threw. From the people we talked to, that will be as tough a battle, if not tougher, than the physical situation," LaMar said.

Saunders' release from the hospital came the same day as the Devil Rays -- mired in a season-high five-game losing streak -- departed for Seattle to start a six-game road trip. While keeping Saunders in their thoughts, the Devil Rays realize their focus must return to baseball.

"They're not going to cancel the schedule," Tampa Bay pitching coach Rick Williams said. "We've got to keep pitching, keep competing."

Sanders will be the 14th player - tops in the majors -- placed on the DL by the Devil Rays this season. LaMar said the biggest on-field challenge facing the second-year team is not letting injuries -- which also sidelined starting pitcher Rolndo Arrojo and centerfielder Quinton McCracken this week -- become an excuse.

"If we do that, we'll take a step back as an organization," LaMar said. "If that competitive attitude seeps away, then we're taking a step back. I don't think that will happen ... we have too much character in the clubhouse."

Saunders faced a first-and-third jam in the third inning when he made a 3-2 pitch to Juan Gonzalez. Ball four was 10 feet wide of the plate for a wild pitch.

Saunders hopped to the edge of the mound and fell in a heap. Devil Rays players rushed to him, along with manager Larry Rothschild, the training staff and medical personnel.

Catcher John Flaherty held Saunders' right hand. Several of Tampa Bay's players in the dugout covered their eyes while Saunders writhed on the ground.

"Sometimes we take it for granted that we're able to go out there all the time and perform," Devil Rays pitcher Bobby Witt said. "When something like this happens, it's kind of unexplainable. What's happened lately gives you a little reality."

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