Baseball -- Kruk Mishap Leads To Cancer Diagnosis -- Testicle Removed; Full Recovery Expected

PHILADELPHIA - An errant pickoff throw by old pal Mitch Williams may have led to the discovery of cancer in Philadelphia Phillie first baseman John Kruk.

Doctors said a throw by Williams that hit Kruk in the groin last summer led doctors to discover a cancerous tumor in his right testicle. The tumor, called a seminoma, often goes undetected because it does not cause pain, said Phillie physician Dr. Phillip Marone.

Kruk, 33, was in good spirits yesterday, one day after doctors removed his testicle during an hourlong operation in Philadelphia, Marone said.

He was resting in a Philadelphia hotel and was expected to return today to Clearwater, Fla., the Phillie spring-training site. He might begin light workouts in 10 days and is expected to fully recover.

"It was no big deal," Marone said. "It's like taking an appendix out - almost."

Doctors believe the cancer was confined to the testicle, Marone said.

A starter in last season's All-Star Game, Kruk had experienced discomfort in his groin since being struck with the throw to first base by Williams. The force of the blow broke Kruk's supportive cup.

Marone said the throw by Williams did not cause the tumor, but may have helped Kruk discover it. Doctors examined Kruk after he complained of a hematoma, or pocket of blood, on his scrotal sac.

Despite the pain in his groin, Kruk hit .316 with 14 homers, 85 RBIs and 100 runs last season.

Err Jordan?

Michael Jordan, still hitless in five spring games, drew a walk in his only plate appearance yesterday and responded to criticism that his attempt to play major league baseball is disgracing the game.

Jordan, trying to make the Chicago White Sox roster, is attacked in "Err Jordan," a Sports Illustrated article by Steve Wulf.

"They have opinions just like everyone else," Jordan said. "I haven't read it (article). I probably won't read it. . . .

"I'm not going to let that (criticism) deteriorate my opportunity to fulfill a dream. It's probably a lot of other people's dreams, too. I'm pretty sure if they had their opportunity, they'd do it, too."


-- Mark McGwire is hurt again. The Oakland slugger missed all but 27 games last year with a mysterious heel injury; this time, it's a back strain that he said will keep him out of action until the last week of spring training.

-- Fernando Valenzuela has given up on pitching again in the major leagues and will play this year in Mexico, said a Mexican baseball official. Valenzuela, now listed as 33 years old, has not reported to the Baltimore Oriole training camp. Valenzuela was 7-10 for the Orioles last season.

-- Baltimore right-hander Mike Mussina signed a one-year contract for $750,000 plus incentives.

---------------------------------------------. Seminoma facts

Facts about seminoma, the kind of cancer found yesterday in John Kruk's right testicle:

-- More common among men between ages of 20 and 35. Whites are more susceptible than other races.

-- About 6,500 cases a year reported nationwide. Seminoma is the most common type found on testicles.

-- Symptoms include lumps or swelling of testicle, pain or feeling of heaviness.

-- Usually affects only one testicle. The remaining testicle can maintain normal sexual and hormonal functions.

-- Seminoma is nearly always curable when treated early. It is most commonly discovered during self examinations.