Nomar leaves game with groin injury

Nomar leaves game with groin injury

ST. LOUIS -- Before Wednesday's game, all Nomar Garciaparra had to worry about was his hitting slump. That all changed after he took two painful steps in the third inning.

Garciaparra had to be carried off the field Wednesday night after injuring his left groin. The severity of the injury was unclear, a Chicago Cubs official said.

The shortstop will undergo an MRI on Thursday. He was examined by the St. Louis team physician on Wednesday.

"When I left the box, I don't know if my front foot kind of slipped coming out of the box," Garciaparra said. "Right when I took that first step, I felt my groin just go. That's when I went straight down. It was pretty painful. I've strained my groin before, but I've never felt anything like this before."

Asked if he thought it was torn, Garciaparra said, "That's my fear."

The Cubs had runners at first and third with one out in the third against the Cardinals, when Garciaparra hit a grounder toward short. He took two steps out of the batter's box and then fell to the ground, grimacing in pain.

Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal attended to Garciaparra on the field, and O'Neal and third base coach Chris Speier tried to help the shortstop off the field. Assistant trainer Ed Halbur then came out, and he and O'Neal carried Garciaparra into the dugout and the clubhouse.

The Cubs already have had to realign their middle infield with the loss of second baseman Todd Walker, who is on the disabled list with a sprained left knee. Walker and Garciaparra were teammates on the Red Sox in 2003.

Garciaparra missed the first 57 games last season with Boston because of an Achilles problem, and was traded from the Red Sox to the Cubs on July 31 in a four-team deal. In September 2004, he missed 11 games because of a strained right groin.

He had been injury-free this year, but hurting at the plate, entering Wednesday's game batting .163. He said he didn't want Dusty Baker to worry about his feelings if the Cubs manager wanted to drop the shortstop in the order. On Wednesday, Garciaparra batted sixth for the first time. He had been hitting third.

"I said, 'If you switch me, it's not like you're going to hurt my feelings,'" Garciaparra said before Wednesday's game. "I want to win here. 'If you feel you have to do that, it doesn't bother me. You make the decisions. Don't make the decision on how I'm feeling or how I'm going to take it.'"

Garciaparra gave the message to Cubs bench coach Dick Pole after Tuesday's game.

"[Garciaparra] said, 'Hey, man, I'm not helping us now. Just relay to Dusty that if he wants to move me down in the order, then that's what he'll do,'" Baker said. "He just wants to win and I know he feels badly about not contributing. I know it's eating him up. He hasn't struggled this much in a long time."

Baker went a step further and contacted Boston hitting coach Ron Jackson for some advice.

   Nomar Garciaparra  /   SS
Born: 07/23/73
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"It's usually something small," Baker said. "We haven't been around him enough to see what it is. That was big of him to say and do that. That's when you find out about a person is when they're going bad. It's easy to be a team guy when you're going good. When you're going bad, that's when you find out who a person is. He's a hell of a dude."

Garciaparra had hit early and extra, watched video, and probably borrowed some of his teammates' bats.

"I've done everything," he said. "And you keep working through it."

What's so puzzling is that he had a tremendous Spring Training and was red hot.

"There were a number of guys who were killing the ball in Spring Training," Baker said. "It's hard to know what it is when you go from that hot to cold so quickly.

"In the end, you usually go back to your own bat and being yourself," Baker said. "When you're not swinging well, you lose sight of who your self is."

And now, Garciaparra's focus will be on getting well.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.