Former pitcher Mark Fidrych dies at 54

From Sun news services

Mark Fidrych, an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed "The Bird" whose career was shortened by injuries, was found dead Monday in an apparent accident at his farm in Northborough, Mass. He was 54.

Worcester County (Mass.) District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said a family friend found Fidrych about 2:30 p.m. Monday beneath a dump truck at his farm. He appeared to be working on the truck, Early said.

The curly haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976, when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA.

After a series of injuries, he didn't pitch in the majors after 1980 and retired after attempting a comeback with the Boston Red Sox in 1983.

"Baseball will miss him," former Orioles pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said. "They missed him because he didn't have as long as a career as everybody would have liked in the first place. It's just horrible."

Fidrych acquired the nickname "The Bird" because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on Sesame Street. During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands and appear to talk to the baseball.

Fidrych's first major league start was a complete-game win over the Cleveland Indians. He won seven of his first eight decisions and was the AL starter in the All-Star Game.

But he tore knee cartilage during spring training in 1977 and was placed on the disabled list until May 24. He suffered a shoulder injury in July and ended up pitching in just 58 games during his major league career.

Jurisprudence: A judge has increased bail to $2 million for the 22-year-old man charged with three counts of murder and felony drunken driving in the traffic-collision death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, a Maryland native, and two other people. Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Roger B. Robbins continued Andrew Gallo's arraignment until June 8. Gallo did not enter a plea.

Yankees: Third baseman Alex Rodriguez resumed drills on the field at the team's minor league complex in Tampa Bay, Fla., five weeks after hip surgery and hopes to return as "good as new." The team doesn't expect him to return until mid-May. Also, first baseman Mark Teixeira (Mount St. Joseph) underwent treatment in Tampa. He didn't play over the weekend because of a sore left wrist.

Nationals: The team put utility man Willie Harris on the 15-day DL with a pulled side muscle and recalled second baseman Anderson Hernandez.

Television: Former Orioles pitcher David Wells has signed a multiyear contract to serve as an analyst for TBS.

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