Saturday, January 5, 2008

A shotgun pellet hit Washington Nationals reliever Luis Ayala in the left biceps during a hunting trip last week, but apparently the accident won’t force him to miss the start of spring training next month.

According to Ayala’s agent, Joe Longo, the 29-year-old hunted with friends Dec. 26 near his hometown in Mexico.

During a break, one of his friend’s shotguns accidentally fired in Ayala’s direction. One pellet struck his left biceps.

“He just said he heard an explosion and then felt it,” Longo said.

Ayala contacted the Nationals and flew to Los Angeles the day after the accident so orthopedist Lewis Yocum and arm specialist Steven Shin could examine him. The doctors determined he suffered only a bruised nerve, with no damage to any arteries.

“He’s very lucky,” Longo said. “You can see where a couple inches to the left, and we’re getting into the chest area. So you can see where the outcome could have been different.”

Ayala has experienced a tingling sensation in his arm, which doctors say is typical, but his condition is improving. Small fragments of the pellet remain in his arm and won’t be removed unless an infection develops. Longo said there is still a small hole the size of a BB in his client’s arm.

The Nationals said in a release the injury “in no way jeopardizes [Ayala’s] participation in spring training.”

Longo’s prognosis was more cautious.

“Everything’s good. It’s just that his arm’s sore,” the agent said. “It’s just going to take time. It looks like he’s going to be OK for spring training, but you never know.”

Ayala enjoyed a successful comeback season after missing all of 2006 following right elbow ligament replacement surgery, going 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 44 games.

He signed a one-year, $1.7 million contract last month, avoiding arbitration, and team officials hope he can increase his workload in 2008 and continue to serve as one of the top setup men for closer Chad Cordero.

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