Juan Carlos Garcia’s reaction said it all.
Garcia was stretching up against the trainer’s room after batting practice when he saw manager Greg Riddoch come out of the manager’s office in street clothes and a gash on the left side of his neck.
Riddoch then pulled out the handle on his carry-on bag and walked out of the clubhouse.
Garcia looked back and asked, “Is he gone?”
Riddoch was gone. The Indians manager had undergone surgery in the clubhouse during batting practice prior to Thursday’s 11-7 loss to visiting Eugene at Avista Stadium to remove a lump on his neck that he first discovered on Monday.
Riddoch, who turns 61 later this month, said he feared that the lump might be cancerous – his father died of cancer. Good news was that it was just a benign fatty mass, according to the Indians’ trainer Eddie Tamez.
“He (Riddoch) was very relieved,” said Mark Whiten, who took over the managerial duties. “Health comes before this game. … He never wants to leave the team short-handed and you probably won’t see him out unless he has to.”
A doctor performed the surgery with a local anesthetic and small scalpel. The procedure took about 30 minutes and left Riddoch drowsy. Prior to surgery, Riddoch was under the impression he would still be well enough to coach the team.
In Riddoch’s absence, the Indians almost pulled out comeback win No. 7, but the come-from-behind magic just wasn’t there. The Eugene Emeralds got on top of the Indians early with an 8-0 lead in the fourth en route to the win.
The loss ties the series at two games each and forces the Indians to have to win the series finale tonight to win their third consecutive series tonight in the fifth game of the homestand.
“I was hoping they would blow them out and it would have made things easy,” said Whiten. “But that was not the case.”
Cesar Ramos, who had held the Indians to just three hits in the first three innings, began the fourth by giving up back-to-back singles to German Duran and Steve Murphy on three pitches. On his fourth pitch, he plunked John Mayberry Jr. to load the bases with none out. Lizahio Baez, who joined the team today, smacked a single to short center field to score the first of four runs in the inning.
After cutting it to 8-6, Freddie Thon led of the sixth with a single and K.C. Herren followed with a fly ball to deep right-center field that appeared to be the game-tying home run. But right fielder Santiago Guerrero made the catch. Thon was already past second base and had to race back to first.
“X-Ray’s taken last night at Sacred Heart Medical Center revealed that catcher Ben Crabtree did not break his hand during Monday night’s 6-5 win. … The Indians received Lizahio Baez from the Clinton Lumberkings, the Texas Rangers’ long-season A team in Iowa. Baez, who played with the Indians last year, was one of 38 minor league players who was suspended for 15 games on April 5 for testing positive for steroids.
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