Closer's return this year fading

Updated: June 19, 2004, 8:10 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants closer Robb Nen was sent home for another month to rest his injured right shoulder.

"Each day that goes by makes it less likely he'll return this year," trainer Stan Conte said Saturday.

Nen was evaluated by team doctors Ken Akizuki and Gary Fanton and underwent another MRI exam Friday. The inflammation in the back of his shoulder is gone, but the Giants still want Nen to be idle for now.

"We wanted to check and make sure it's healing the way we wanted it to, and the answer is yes," Conte said. "But it wasn't completely pain-free."

The 34-year-old Nen rejoined his teammates Wednesday for a couple of days after spending a month back home in Orange County, where he was limited to cardiovascular work to stay in shape.

Nen, who had 43 saves and a 2.20 ERA in 2002, will visit the team when San Francisco plays the Dodgers in Los Angeles from June 29-July 1.

The three-time All-Star is making more than $9 million this season.

"It's extremely difficult," assistant general manager Ned Colletti said. "We know what he means to the club not only as a pitcher but as a teammate. He's done all that's been asked of him. As frustrated as everyone else is, I'm sure he's five times as frustrated.

"I've been in major league baseball for 23 years and his character might be equaled, but you won't find anybody better."

Nen is trying to recover from three shoulder operations that forced him to miss the entire 2003 season. He hasn't thrown off a mound since mid-April.

He said if he is unable to appear in a game this year, he hopes he could give it another shot in 2005 -- even if he has to accept a non-roster invite to spring training with another club.

"We're not looking at his shoulder in terms of this season or next season," Conte said. "In 30 days, we'll evaluate it again and if we feel he can throw, he will."

His teammates are still hopeful.

"I'm still waiting for Robbie," current closer Matt Herges said. "I still feel like the surrogate now. I'm hoping. We're a lot better with him in there."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press