Notes: Kuwata suffers right ankle sprain
Former Japanese League star taken off field on cart
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Masumi Kuwata was taken off the field on a golf cart during the eighth inning on Monday, representing the latest Pirates injury, but also a sad turn for the Japanese righty whose dream is to one day play in the Major Leagues.
Kuwata, 38, had survived many rounds of Spring Training cuts and earned praise from manager Jim Tracy, who seemed, if anything, pleasantly surprised by the Japanese pitcher who'd spent the previous 21 seasons with the Yomiuri [Tokyo] Giants. He seemed poised to make the roster at Triple-A Indianapolis, until a nasty spill in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie with Toronto put things on hold for a bit.
Kuwata was attempting to back up third base after Toronto's John McDonald knocked a bloop single with a man on first. The right-hander became entangled with home plate umpire Wally Bell, who was heading to third as well, and fell face-down near the coaches' box, where he remained unmoving until surrounded by teammates and head team trainer Brad Henderson.
"He stepped on my left ankle, and I believe at that point he twisted his [right] ankle," said Bell. "I saw him before he saw me. I tried to put my hand out, but we collided."
Kuwata was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital for X-rays, and returned to the clubhouse not long after the game, wearing a plastic splint. He was ushered immediately into the training room and had the door shut behind him.
Kuwata was diagnosed as having a grade 3 sprain of his right ankle, which was reported to be severely swollen. So much so, in fact, that doctors are not ruling out a break. Grade three is the most serious sprain, on a scale of 1-3. Kuwata will be re-evaluated on Tuesday morning by team physician Patrick DeMeo.
Monday was just Kuwata's second outing since returning from a left ankle sprain he suffered on March 9. He sat out nine days that time around, and seemed to be eager to get back into action immediately. It's unknown how long he'll be sidelined this time around.
"He's done a great job, and it really is a shame because, had we not dealt with the left ankle earlier, our intention was to continue to pitch the guy," Tracy said. "Get him out there, and find out exactly what it is that we have from the standpoint of physical capability."
Grabow coming along: Tracy said that southpaw John Grabow was, "very, very encouraged" about the throwing elbow that's been threatening to place the reliever on the disabled list to start the season. Grabow will throw a bullpen session on Thursday, marking the latest checkpoint on his road back to the bullpen.
"Grabow's doing work [a lot] earlier than we even thought he would be," Tracy said. "John Grabow was such a good pitcher for us last year, and such a terrific teammate, that when you see the smile on his face that he's had over the last four or five days ... all you have to do is look at him, and you know how his elbow feels."
Man down: Bell had a rough day behind the plate. After colliding with Kuwata in the eighth inning, the umpire was hit on the right hand with a foul tip an inning later. The game was stopped for several minutes while Bell was examined by Henderson, and he eventually resumed his position behind the plate. The last two fingers on his right hand were splinted between innings, but it was not known whether anything was broken.
Family reunion: Dave LaRoche, Toronto's Double-A pitching coach and Bucs first baseman Adam LaRoche's father, made the trip to Bradenton with the Blue Jays on Monday. Father and son exchanged lineup cards at home plate before the game, and posed for a photo with umpires.
The elder LaRoche coached first base during the game and was able to share small talk with his son, but said Adam's teammates were playfully harassing Dave after Adam struck out in each of his first two at-bats. During the offseason, when Adam is home in Kansas, his father is the one who throws to him in the batting cage.
Up next: Pittsburgh will travel to Fort Myers on Tuesday and face the Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Tony Armas will get the ball for the Pirates in his sixth appearance of the preseason, where he'll face Boston righty Tim Wakefield.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.