Combs says he lied about soreness in pitching arm


ST. LOUIS -- Pat Combs followed a morose Wednesday with an apologetic Thursday by admitting that he had lied to manager Jim Fregosi and pitching coach Johnny Podres about the state of his sore left arm before making a dismal third-of-an-inning outing (25 pitches, five walks, five runs, five strikes) Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

The Phillies placed Combs on the 15-day disabled list Thursday and activated left-handed reliever Wally Ritchie. Ritchie, who had been on the DL since Otis Nixon spiked him in the stomach in Atlanta after being hit by a pitch, served his one-game suspension for that incident Thursday afternoon.

Combs missed a start last Friday when he complained of a sore left elbow before the game, but threw well in the bullpen before Wednesday's start and told Fregosi and Podres he didn't feel any pain.

"From what I told them, they assumed everything was OK," said Combs, who now admits that he feels soreness and some inflammation in his left arm from the top of his elbow and extending into the forearm. "I put myself and the team in jeopardy by doing that. If I feel anything in the future, definitely I'll let somebody know.

"I really handled it badly. I definitely could have done a lot more damage than I have. . . . I hurt the team, and I made Jim and Johnny look bad."

Combs is the sixth Phillies pitcher to spend time on the disabled list this season. The others: Ken Howell, Steve Ontiveros, Danny Cox, Jason Grimsley and Ritchie. Jose DeJesus and Terry Mulholland also have missed starts.

The man most likely to make Combs' next scheduled start -- Monday against St. Louis at Veterans Stadium -- is left-hander Bruce Ruffin, his emergency replacement last Friday night. Grimsley, who has thrown two solid rehabilitation games at Triple Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was scheduled to start again for the Red Barons last night, but could start Monday for the Phillies if he only puts in a few innings of work.

Fregosi said he wanted to wait a day or two before deciding who his Monday starter would be.

Management was visibly unhappy with Combs' deception, responding to questions with tight voices and closed faces. After a closed-door meeting of more than 30 minutes in Fregosi's office before Thursday's game, general manager Lee Thomas emerged with this to say:

"Mr. Combs assured everybody he was all right before the game. Now, he says that during the game he didn't feel right. If he doesn't feel right, we can't send him back out there. He's going on the DL as of today."

In Wednesday night's postgame press conference, Fregosi bristled when asked about Combs' arm, saying little more than, "He's fine." Minutes later, Combs addressed reporters with complaints of soreness.

"Well, the first time I heard about it was when you guys came in here and said he was sore," Fregosi said, nodding at the reporters. ". . . . I went down with him when he threw on the side and he threw fine. When he was walking in [from his pregame warm-ups] with Podres, he said he was fine. The inflammation had gone down in his arm."

* Terry Mulholland threw on the side Thursday and said he was ready to start today, his first outing in 10 days. . . . Jason Grimsley missed his last scheduled start in Scranton (Tuesday) because he was hit in the right triceps by a line drive in his outing June 20.

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