SAN FRANCISCO - Starter Russ Ortiz could miss a month or so, but at least the Diamondbacks know what they are dealing with after an MRI performed Monday showed that Ortiz has a stress fracture in his right rib cage.
The injury is considered less severe than cartilage damage in the rib cage, since the healing time for fibrous cartilage is less predictable, although Ortiz still is expected to stay off a mound for two weeks.
"It probably will be at least two weeks before he will feel comfortable enough to begin some (throwing) activity,’’ trainer Paul Lessard said.
Stress fractures are "very common in golfers, according to the doctors, because of the flexion-rotation. There have been quite a few cases of pitchers as well,’’ Lessard added.
Ortiz is an avid golfer, playing in the offseason and often on days he is not scheduled to pitch.
Claudio Vargas will take Ortiz’s place in the rotation for a start against San Francisco today, the first start Ortiz will have missed since the middle of the 2000 season, and also stay in the rotation for a Sunday start against Detroit before Monday’s off-day.
"My feeling is he makes two (starts), then we have the offday and we re-evaluate if we want to skip or what we want to do,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.
Vargas’ start against the Giants tonight brings back good memories. He won his first major league game at SBC Park on May 14, 2003, carrying a shutout into the ninth inning before giving up two runs in a 5-3 victory.
"I know a lot of the guys there. Just focus and try to throw strikes,’’ said Vargas, who will make his second DBacks start after being claimed off waivers from Montreal on June 4. He gave up six runs in five innings against Minnesota in a 10-0 loss on June 9.
"That’s a good pitcher’s park, too. We’ll see what happens. I feel good,’’ he said.
Closer Brian Bruney began working on a curveball earlier in the road trip and used it for the first time in an appearance Friday, throwing four — three for strikes — in an 18-pitch scoreless eighth inning.
"Any time I can get myself better I’m going to try to, and I think that’s something that could make me more effective,’’ said Bruney, 1-2 with six saves and a 5.72 ERA.
"They (hitters) make adjustments off you, so you have to make adjustments off them. Obviously they are starting to hit me lately, so I feel like the curveball will offset that.’’
Bruney adopted the grip used by Lance Cormier and threw several to pitching coach Mark Davis, who was impressed and told Bruney to try it in a game.
"This might be something that can be effective, and we’ll reap the benefits as we go through the season,’’ Davis said.
Bruney also throws a slider and a change-up, and said he will keep his entire repertoire, at least for the time being.
The D-Backs signed sandwich pick Matthew Torra, the 31st player taken in the June draft, to a contract that includes a bonus of about $1 million. Torra, a right-hander from Massachusetts-Amherst, will be assigned to short-season Class A Yakima of the Northwest League. . . .
Outfielder Luis Terrero (groin) is to begin a rehabilitation assignment in Tucson today. He is eligible to return from the disabled list today but will need at least three days of rehab, Melvin said. . . .
Pitcher Oscar Villarreal is still on medication after an incident Saturday in which he was taken to a Cleveland hospital because of pain in his urinary tract. Doctors found blood clots in the tract and believe he passed a kidney stone. . . .
Melvin seems to be leaning toward carrying 12 pitchers, his current allotment, for the rest of the season.
"Every time it seems like we think about going back to 11, that particular day we end up going, ‘I wish I had 12.’ ‘’