The ’89 A’s were the least powerful team of the A’s dynasty, and the injury to Canseco’s wrist that kept him out for the first half of the season was much of the reason why. On March 8, David Bush of the Chronicle described Jim Abbott’s spring debut and the last at-bat Canseco had before the wrist troubles emerged:
“The atmosphere at Phoenix Municipal Stadium yesterday more closely resembled that of a World Series game than the A’s fifth exhibition game of the spring.
The game’s 90-degree weather and the intimacy of the ballpark were springlike enough, but a throng of national media on the field before the California Angels whipped the A’s, 9-4, was worthy of the postseason.
The reason for all the attention was Jim Abbott, the Angels’ remarkable rookie pitcher who was born without a right hand.
Abbott, the Angels’ first-round draft choice last June out of the University of Michigan and a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, came on in the fourth inning and left in the sixth, giving up one run that wasn’t his fault and earning the victory.
Abbott had walked two hitters and had two outs when Canseco came to the plate. On the 1-2 pitch, Abbott dipped an inside slider onto Canseco’s fists and the A.L. MVP waved at it.
“I knew I had a base open but I didn’t want to give into him,” said Abbott. “It was a thrill to face Jose Canseco. That’s what this game is all about. I know it is early in spring training, but for me that was a pressure situation.”
“He’s legit. He’s got a good fastball and above average slider,” said Canseco. “I am just trying to concentrate on the ball. It (Abbott’s handicap) had nothing to do with my at-bat.”
On March 23, Bush reported: “It took two weeks to get Jose Canseco into the lineup and just two swings to remove him.
The A’s right fielder, making his first start since March 7, felt more pain in his tender left wrist and left yesterday’s game against the Giants in the first inning.
San Francisco eventually won the game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, 6-4, in 11 innings.
Canseco has felt pain in the wrist since the beginning of spring training. After striking out against the Angels’ Jim Abbott on March 7, Canseco’s duty has been limited. The A’s said the idleness was merely a precaution, and once the pain disappeared completely, Canseco would have sufficient time to prepare for the regular season.
With 11 days remaining until the opener, time is running out and Canseco has batted just nine times in spring-training games.
“Even though I haven’t played very much I saw the ball well today,” said Canseco. “But I do need to be in games and face some live pitching to get my timing back.”
Canseco took part in a simulated game on Tuesday, and said afterward that his wrist was a little stiff but that he would be able to play yesterday.
But when fouling off pitcher Dennis Cook’s second pitch on a check-swing, Canseco said he felt sharp pain in his wrist. “It hurt, but I thought I could play through it.”
After taking the next pitch for a ball, Canseco swung and missed at a high fastball. At that point he walked away from the plate and into the clubhouse. “On the second one the pain was even worse, and I told the bench that I should come out,” said Canseco.
His wrist wrapped in ice, Canseco said the pain was worse than it had been all spring. “It doesn’t hurt when I move it up and down, but it does when I move it sideways, which is the motion you use to hit.”
Canseco said he has had no previous problems with his wrist. His twin brother, Ozzie, broke the hamate bone in his left wrist early this spring.
“It’s just coincidence,” said Canseco, who paused, rolled his eyes skyward and said, “but then again, you never know.” Canseco seemed hardly distraught with his ill fortune. “I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “If I get frustrated and angry, that might only make it worse.”
In mid-July, Canseco finally came back, in an 11-7 win over the Blue Jays in SkyDome, in the teams’ first game following the All-Star break. He hit a home run and a single, driving in three runs and stealing a base.
Canseco had missed the A’s first 88 games of the season, and his return overshadow the equally anticipated return of reliever Dennis Eckersley, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in his first appearance since May 27. Canseco’s third RBI of the game, coming on a ninth-inning single, increased the A’s lead to four runs and deprived Eckersley of a chance for a save.
Jose, after the game: “I was a little nervous, and I just tried to keep it simple,” agreed Canseco, whose rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Huntsville (Ala.) produced an undistinguished record of four hits in 23 at-bats. “”I didn’t do that well in the minor leagues, so I just brainwashed myself into thinking I had been hitting. Then it seemed like yesterday that I was hitting line drives.”
Meanwhile, Eckersley said of his return: “I felt all right. I’m glad it wasn’t a one-run game, because you don’t know how you are going to do.
“It is hard to be confident if you haven’t done it in a long time. I thought I was so-so. One pitch would be good, and the next not so good. But as long as it doesn’t hurt, I will be all right.”