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03/03/08 7:57 PM ET
Lopes to undergo cancer surgery
First-base coach will be away from team for at least six weeks
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Amid the sun and palm trees, distressing news lurked when the Phillies announced Monday that first-base coach Davey Lopes will undergo prostate cancer surgery later this month. The 62-year-old Lopes will be away from the team for at least six weeks while he recovers. The surgery will take place at Morton Plant Hospital in New Port Richey, Fla.. "What Davey has is very serious, but the doctor feels like everything is going to be fine," said manager Charlie Manuel, who overcame cancer that cost him a kidney in 2000, and other medical conditions. "Everything is going to work out for him. He's just going to miss some time. We look forward to him coming back." Jerry Martin will coach first while Lopes makes what is expected to be a full recovery. Martin played in the Major Leagues from 1979-84 and has served as the team's base-running coordinator since 2004. "It's an unfortunate situation," Martin said. "Everybody in this clubhouse hopes he gets through this nice and easy. It's not a good situation for me in that regard, but at the same time, I'm happy to come up here and try to fill in until he gets back. The bottom line is we're all pulling for him to get through this thing real quick and get back." Lopes' on-field influence was felt strongly last season, when the Phillies had the best stolen base percentage (87.9 percent) in the National League. The team's 138 swipes last season against 19 caught was the best in baseball history. Individually, he helped turn Shane Victorino into one of the game's best thieves. "He was a big reason why we were able to manufacture runs and steal bases," Manuel said. "He gave our guys confidence by seeing things they couldn't see. A lot of times he just told them to go." And they went. The cancer was detected during an exam conducted at the beginning of Spring Training, just as it was for longtime coach Sal Rende, who had the procedure in 2005. The news that Lopes -- who hasn't coached first at all this spring -- left a cloud over what had been a loose camp. Phillies staffers couldn't help but recall a year ago this Saturday, when John Vukovich lost his battle with brain cancer, a devastating moment for the organization, or March 12, 2003, when Tug McGraw was hospitalized in with a brain tumor that took his life 10 months later. Lopes will overcome. "It's unfortunate, but fortunate," said an emotional Jamie Moyer, who works with cancer patients and their families through his charitable work at Camp Erin. "It's fortunate that we do physicals, and early enough to catch something like that. And it's unfortunate that he has prostate cancer."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.