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Giavotella has condition causing double vision

'There's no toughening it out,' Angels second baseman says

ANAHEIM -- Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella, out of action since Aug. 20, revealed Friday that he has been diagnosed with fourth nerve palsy, a condition that causes him to see double every time he turns his eyes downward or to the left. Doctors have told him it's "nothing life-threatening and nothing permanent," and Giavotella said his symptoms were "gradually getting better."

"I plan on coming back this season," Giavotella said, but he couldn't provide a definitive timetable.

He just has to wait.

"That's one of the more frustrating parts," Giavotella said. "I can't do anything to speed up the process. There's no toughening it out. I can't see. I'd like to think that I'm a fairly tough person and play through a lot of pain, but there's no going out there and toughing it through this kind of injury."

Giavotella woke up two weeks ago seeing double and "went into full panic mode." He laid back down hoping it would go away, then rushed to the hospital when it didn't. The Angels placed Giavotella on the disabled list on Aug. 24 but didn't reveal specifics of his illness, largely because of health-information privacy laws but also because doctors were still trying to figure out what was wrong.

Giavotella's condition causes weakness or paralysis to the superior oblique muscle, prompting misalignment of the eyes. Fourth nerve palsy (or superior oblique palsy) is mostly present at birth or as a result of head trauma, which Giavotella, 28, has never experienced.

"Eventually," Giavotella said, "it'll repair itself."

Doctors told him it could take anywhere from "a couple of days to a few weeks," an unsettling timeline with only 3 1/2 weeks left in the regular season.

Giavotella has been able to work out, throw and hit off a tee, but because he's a right-handed hitter who can't look to his left, he can't hit live pitching. It has put a sudden halt on Giavotella's first season as an everyday player, one that saw him win the job in Spring Training and emerge as a catalyst for the Angels' lineup.

"In baseball terms, it's very frustrating," said Giavotella, batting .265/.312/.350. "I felt like I was a big part of this team when I was playing. It was a dream season up to that point. But all I can do is stay positive, root the guys on, come to the field and help guys any way I can."

With Giavotella out, the Angels have struggled to get production from the bottom of their lineup. Grant Green initially started at second base and now it's Taylor Featherston, a Rule 5 pick who hadn't played above Double-A before this season.

The condition, not to mention the uncertainty that surrounded it, has given Giavotella a fresh perspective.

"Baseball isn't all that life is," he said. "My health is more important. … The support that I got from my family and friends is amazing. It's been nice to see what kind of following I have because of me not playing."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast.
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