Injuries Strike Jacksonville Staff

It hasn't exactly reached epidemic proportions but, nonetheless, injuries are starting to cut a swath through the Jacksonville pitching staff.

The latest victim is righthander Justin Orenduff, who had to leave Monday night's game after one inning because of elbow soreness. He's been placed on the disabled list although a replacement for him has yet to be named with the time frame for his absence to be determined after tests.

Righthander Joel Hanrahan has preceded Orenduff on the D.L. , after being forced to the sidelines with a hamstring strain. This injury is not regarded as being particularly serious with Hanrahan expected to miss only one start. Righthander Alvis Ojeda will probably get the call to replace him in that one.

In the meantime , though, concern about relief pitcher Jose "Jumbo" Diaz continues to mount. Diaz missed most of spring training with elbow soreness and, although, he's been able to pitch in games for the 51's, he's been nothing like the 99-plus mph flame thrower that he has been in the past.

Instead, because of the soreness, Diaz has dropped his arm slot to the side with the result that his pitches are tending to flatten out with an alarming decrease in velocity. Currently, he's been barely able to hit 90 on the gun.

This is the second time Diaz has hurt his pitching elbow. In 2004 , he had Tommy John surgery but came back last summer to pitch strongly enough to earn a spot on the Dodger 40-man roster. The current problem is on the opposite side of the joint from the previous operation.

The injury problems forced manager John Shoemaker to call upon catcher A.J. Ellis in relief in a 14-inning game recently. The Suns also called up 18-year-old righthander Steve Johnson from the extended spring camp. Johnson threw two hitless innings in his debut.