Merricks Out at Vero; Izturis to Join Vero

A weary Vero Beach pitching staff, already battered by giving up 29 runs in their last two games, received a further blow when it became necessary to place lefthander Matt Merricks on the disabled list because of "general arm fatigue." Buried in last place in the Florida State East, Vero will soon be getting some major league assistance- for, at least, awhile, but it won't be pitching.

Merricks has a 0-1, 4.32 record which is rather deceiving because in three of his five starts he has been quite effective. He leads the Vero staff in strikeouts with 35 in 23 innings. However, he has a history of shoulder problems which sidelined him much of 2005 and part of this spring.

He has been replaced in the rotation by another lefthander, Alberto Bastardo, promoted from Columbus. Blastardo, a native of Venezuela, has been something of a revelation. A Rule 5 selection from the Baltimore organization, he compiled a 3-1 , 1.39 record for the Catfish, striking out 33 in 32.1 innings.

Merricks was obtained from the Braves for Tom Martin in July 2004. Chosen by Colorado in the major league portion of the 2004 Rule 5 draft, he was returned in the middle of last season after spending most of the time on the Rockies' disabled list.

Vero Beach also received the glad tidings that it will be getting major league help of the infield variety soon. Shortstop Cesar Izturis will begin his rehabiliation assignment with the Florida State League team on May 20. Izturis had season-ending elbow surgery last September and has since been replaced in the Dodger lineup by Rafael Furcal.

It is expected that Izturis will be with Vero Beach for about a week, then move up to Las Vegas to continue his rehab.