Who would guess the only thing on a baseball field that Vince Coleman couldn't outrun would be the tarp?

The St. Louis Cardinals rookie, who stole 110 bases this regular season, had his left ankle and knee bruised and scraped tonight when a motorized tarpaulin rolled over his foot and up his leg to mid-thigh, trapping the terrified and screaming player for 15 to 30 seconds.

Coleman escaped any serious injury and, although he missed Game 4 of the National League Championship Series tonight, he probably will be able to play Monday afternoon.

"It started to rain (hard) during batting practice and Vince was coming in to grab some bats and go hit in the cage," said St. Louis spokesman Jim Toomey. "He wasn't paying attention to the tarp, obviously . . . He was tossing his glove to somebody . . . He was looking the other way and the thing was on him."

Teammates could not pull Coleman from beneath the 1,200-pound, 180-foot long tarp. The grounds crewman who started the motor that powers the tarp "acted quickly," according to Toomey, in stopping it when he heard all the commotion.

Coleman was carried off the field on a stretcher, and, at first, it was feared his leg was broken or possibly crushed. However, multiple X-rays proved negative and the injuries were minor.

"I'm okay, and I'll be playing soon," he said. "I just don't want to be charged with a caught-stealing because of this."

"I was just turning around when I heard this scream and the thing swallowed him up," said Cardinals third baseman Terry Pendleton.

"I think he was scared to death the thing would run all the way over him," said Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager. "Hopefully, he was scared more than hurt."

"He's tender outside the knee and below the ankle . . . there were (abrasions) of the skin," said the Cardinals' team doctor, Stan London. "He's on crutches for the moment . . . taking (ice) treatment in the clubhouse. I think he could perhaps . . . play on Monday, depending on how much discomfort he has."

The Cardinals did not fault anyone. The tarp operator, far down the right field line, could not have seen Coleman near home plate.

By most accounts, Coleman wasn't paying attention. He simply got too close, slipped and got tangled under the rolling cylinder.