Tony Gwynn needed walker as he battled cancer, weight problems

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Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champion, has finished an eight-week program of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer of the parotid gland, and says he hopes to return to his job as head baseball coach at San Diego State later this month, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The former San Diego Padres star was diagnosed with cancer in August and underwent surgery in October, completing his cancer treatment shortly before Christmas. In addition to the cancer, his health woes were complicated by back problems caused by being overweight.

Gwynn was a once svelte outfielder (listed at 5-11, 185 on baseball-reference.com!) who became increasingly portly as his legendary career progressed. After retiring, the five-time Gold Glove winner became noticeably bigger. His size contributed to disk problems in his back, which got so bad that it became difficult to walk.

“I was in bad shape,” Gwynn told the Union-Tribune. “Not only was I dealing with the cancer, I was having to use a walker to get around and I wasn’t doing a great job of that.”

He said that he isn’t sure about the status of his cancer, though he did point out that while he can’t say it’s cured, he feels good and doctors tell him he is ahead of schedule. He also said that he’s been “walking on my own for about a month now.”

Gwynn told the paper that his recovery was aided by the numerous cards and messages he received, saying that the support made it “hard to be down.” In addition to his coaching job, he said he also plans to return as a commentator on Padres telecasts this season.

As for his size, the career .338 hitter says he has lost a significant amount of weight and is getting around much better.

“I can’t tell you how many pounds because I haven’t gotten on a scale,” he said. “But I can guess the amount is considerable since I have sweats that fall off me now and my jackets seem like they are many sizes too big.

“Losing the weight has also helped my back and my walking.”

Gwynn, only 50, is a class act who has as much knowledge about baseball and hitting as anyone on the planet. Losing him as a coach and broadcaster would be a huge loss for the game. Get well Tony.

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Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.