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Published: Wednesday, 11/28/2007

Indians' Lara has spinal fracture

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Doctors examining Cleveland Indians reliever Juan Lara found he had a spinal fracture, plus severe brain trauma from a weekend car accident.

Lara, who pitched in one game for Cleveland last season, was returning from a winter league game Saturday night in San Pedro de Macoris when the sports utility vehicle he was driving was hit by a motorcycle, killing both its rider and passenger.

"Juan's condition is very fragile. In the last medical report we found that he has a severe brain trauma, and we also found a fracture in the spinal column, with the D2 [second vertebra] in an unstable condition," hospital spokeswoman Dashira Martinez said.

Martinez said doctors have not determined whether there will be any paralysis.

"For the moment the doctors' prognosis is reserved, which means we should give it time to see how it evolves before making reference to that possibility," she said.

The 26-year-old Lara remains hospitalized in critical condition.

"We'll go to the hospital to see how he is, and we will talk with the doctors, the Dominicans as well as those from the Indians, to determine the path to take," said Winston Llenas, the team's representative in the Caribbean nation.

Lara, originally signed by the Indians in 1999, spent most of last season with Triple-A Buffalo. He was recalled from the minors on Sept. 4 and made his only appearance for the Indians two days later, working 11/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

The left-hander pitched in nine games for the Indians in 2006.

CLEVELAND - Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, who took over as Cleveland's starting second baseman and sparked the Indians to the AL Central title, was named the club's minor league player of the year yesterday.

Aaron Laffey was named the club's top minor league pitcher.

Cabrera began the season at Double-A Akron and played briefly at Triple-A Buffalo before his contract was purchased by the Indians on Aug. 7. He soon replaced Josh Barfield at second and batted .283 in 45 games while helping the Indians make the AL playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Cleveland went 28-12 when Cabrera, a shortstop in the minors, started at second.

He batted a combined .303 with 114 runs, 35 doubles, five triples, 11 homers and 79 RBIs in 150 games with Akron, Buffalo and Cleveland.

Laffey went 17-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 31 games at two minor-league levels and with the Indians. He was 9-0 in his last 12 starts with Buffalo.

Laffey made his major league debut on Aug. 4 against Minnesota. He finished the season as the fifth starter in Cleveland's rotation and went 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA in nine starts. Manager Eric Wedge said Laffey will compete for one of Cleveland's starting spots during training camp.



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