Punch Puts M's Ayala In Stitches -- Players Say Pitcher Put Hand Through Window

CHICAGO - The latest twist in the tale of Bobby Ayala has taken him to the disabled list. The Seattle Mariner relief pitcher was placed on the 15-day disabled list after receiving nine stitches at the base of his right thumb.

Ayala was injured in an unspecified incident that occurred "off the field" Tuesday night, according to the club's official statement. Mariner publicist Dave Aust said Ayala, who returned to Seattle yesterday, "could be out as long as a month."

Players in the Seattle clubhouse yesterday said Ayala punched out the window in his room at the team hotel at about 2 a.m. Tuesday night.

Seattle officials would not say whether alcohol use was involved in Ayala's accident.

"I don't know that," Seattle General Manager Woody Woodward said. "I don't say that out of legal concerns, but because I don't have full reports on what happened."

Woodward talked with Ayala yesterday morning. "But I don't want to get into what (Ayala) said," he said. "I'm not comfortable saying anything beyond that."

Ayala, who returned to Seattle, was not available for comment.

Ayala's pitching troubles began in the middle of last season. After a big 1994 season, when he saved 18 games and compiled a 2.86 earned-run average, he saved 13 games with a solid 3.18 ERA in 31 first-half appearances last year.

When he hit a slump in July, Norm Charlton took over as the club's closer and wound up playing a major part in the Mariners' late charge into the playoffs.

Ayala, meantime, slumped to six saves and a 5.59 ERA.

This year, although he threw the ball well at times, he compiled a 13.06 ERA in eight games. He gave up 15 hits and 16 runs, walked five and struck out 12. Opponents were hitting .364 against him.

"Coming out of spring training this year, we envisioned Bobby Ayala as a big part of our bullpen," Manager Lou Piniella said. "Even though he struggled early we still had confidence in him. I took him aside and told him just that two or three days ago.

"What has happened to him is unfortunate for him. I expect him to get himself straightened out and come back and help us."