More MS news articles for May 1999

Pitcher With MS Fights On

Saturday May 8 2:58 PM ET
By JOE KAY AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - There are times when Stan Belinda wonders when it will end.

The Cincinnati Reds reliever developed odd sensations in his leg last summer that turned out to be symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
His season ended when the incurable disease was diagnosed last September.

A drug that he injects daily has helped him control the symptoms and allowed him to continue his career. A more common problem - tendinitis in his right biceps - has kept him on the disabled list since spring training.

A month into the season, he hasn't pitched in a game and has no idea when he might be ready to be activated.

"The other symptoms have been fine for the last two or three months," Belinda said. "That's when the patience goes - this starts and it starts weighing on you a little bit."

It's weighing on him more than a little. During a break between workouts this week, Belinda admitted that the tendinitis - something that comes every spring training and usually goes away quickly - had just about drained his patience.

"The well's going dry, believe me," he said. "In the last year, I've had to deal in a lot of patience. This is really sucking the well dry. I hope it rains and fills it back up."

The most troubling thing is the uncertainty. The arm will feel good for a few days, then get sore again. For now, he's limited to strengthening the arm with weights and throwing.

He's given up guessing when he might be ready to pitch again.

"I have no expectations," he said.

Belinda, 32, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, making an $835,000 base salary. There's a team option for next season at $1.5 million that the Reds can buy out for $500,000.

The $1.5 million salary for 2000 will kick in automatically if he makes 60 appearances this season - a long shot given the problem with his arm. After making 84 relief appearances in 1997, he made only 40 last year. After talking about how his patience is running out, Belinda brightened a bit and tried to take a more long-range view.

"I'll be all right," he said. "It's just taking me a little longer. I hope at the end I can go out there and throw this one year away." Working with some of the Reds' young relievers has helped Belinda keep up his spirits. Belinda has befriended rookie Scott Williamson, who's in only his third pro season.

"I'm just trying to help out. I'm trying to make a shortcut for them," Belinda said. "There's a lot of stuff that goes into being a relief pitcher.

"I've really tried to work with Scott Williamson and make him feel comfortable here. I'm just trying to be his friend right now, be a good person to him."

Williamson, 23, has turned into one of the Reds' most dependable relievers, putting himself in consideration for a closer role down the road. He said Belinda has been a big help.

"Since the first day of spring training, he's been like a big brother to me," Williamson said. "He's taken care of me. I sit with him on the plane. Most of the time a younger guy would have to scramble for a season, but Stan lets me sit beside him."

It hasn't been a one-way relationship. Belinda has gotten something back.

"He mentioned that I brought life back into him," Williamson said. "He said it reminds him of when he was young."