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Through thick and shin: Garcia runs into cart

SAN FRANCISCO - Juan Castillo knows Freddy Garcia's pain.

SAN FRANCISCO - Juan Castillo knows Freddy Garcia's pain.

During batting practice yesterday, Garcia bruised his left shin when he ran into a turf utility vehicle used by the Giants' groundskeepers at AT & T Park.

X-rays were negative but his availability for his scheduled start tonight in Arizona will not be determined until he reports for work this afternoon. Early reports after Garcia iced his shin had him feeling much better, and Garcia has been known as a pitcher who willingly pitches through pain.

"If he says he can pitch, I'll more than likely pitch him," manager Charlie Manuel said.

"I'll see how it feels tomorrow. Right now, it feels better," Garcia said after the game.

So did his heart, which finally had resumed its normal rhythm. "It scared me a lot. I hit it really hard. I was going full speed," Garcia said. "Who expects to get hit with a cart at batting practice?"

The Phillies had made no plans to fly in a minor league replacement for a spot start, apparently willing to stitch together a bullpen start instead.

"Basically, these things stiffen up overnight," general manager Pat Gillick said. "They get sore overnight. It depends on how sore it is [today]."

Asked if he was as upset as most of the other Phillies and several Giants representatives appeared to be, Gillick, typically, shrugged:

"I wouldn't say upset. I'm kind of curious why it was out there while we have the field."

Here's why:

Garcia, in centerfield shagging flies, ran to his left, tracking a fly ball hit by Ryan Howard. The Toro Workman 3100 was on the warning track, en route from the Phillies' bullpen down the rightfield line to the maintenance shed nestled beyond the corner of the leftfield fence.

The driver saw the ball's flight and stopped the cart. Garcia, according to witnesses Clay Condrey and Yoel Hernandez, never saw the cart and ran into it.

Garcia briefly fell to the ground. He quickly was helped into the same cart and driven to the Phillies' dugout, which is on the first-base line. He was unable to put his weight on his left leg and hopped down the dugout steps on his right leg.

About 20 minutes after the incident, as the cart in question raced back onto the field laden with rakes and shovels to groom the field after batting practice, head groundskeeper Scott MacVicar refused to comment.

Moments earlier, however, MacVicar had told Phillies representatives that driving the cart along the outfield warning track was common practice for his employees. There is little room behind home plate at the ballpark, and the cramped area usually is crowded with VIPs and players during batting practice.

"They need to look at changing their routine," one Phillies executive said.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Jorge Costa, the Giants' senior vice president of ballpark operations. He was clearly stunned as he stood outside the maintenance storage area. "It is an unfortunate incident, and not one we are taking lightly."

Costa added that the practice of using the vehicles in the outfield will be "looked at."

The last such incident involving a Philadelphia sports team occurred on Aug. 17, 1998.

Juan Castillo, the Eagles' offensive line coach, was crossing a concourse in the bowels of Veterans Stadium when he was struck by a contractor's maintenance-type vehicle traveling at a high speed. Castillo suffered a broken leg that has hobbled him since.

Garcia, 1-2 with a 6.05 earned run average, appears to have been much luckier. *