Surgery would end Gonzalez's season

Updated: July 20, 2004, 2:15 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHOENIX -- Arizona slugger Luis Gonzalez will have season-ending ligament replacement surgery in early August, but is expected to return to the Diamondbacks by next spring.

Luis Gonzalez
Gonzalez

The left fielder will almost certainly miss a chance at his sixth straight season with 100 RBIs, though he will keep playing until he has the operation. He has played all season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, feeling pain on every throw to the infield. The ligament connects bones in the upper and lower arm.

"What's tough is when you've fielded one or two balls out there and you start hoping nobody else hits one to you," the 36-year-old Gonzalez said Monday before taking the field against San Francisco.

"I don't want to sit around and think of things like that, so I just want to keep playing until they actually can get a date down and we can get it done," he said. "I'll be in the dugout and help some of the younger guys out as much as I can. I'm still part of the club. They're not taking my uniform away from me."

ESPN's Sam Ryan first reported that Gonzalez would need "Tommy John" surgery during Sunday's broadcast of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks.

Head trainer Paul Lessard said it was possible for position players to recover from the operation within four to six months, compared with 12 to 16 months for pitchers.

"The stress on a position player's elbow is a different," Lessard said. "Hopefully, he doesn't have to make 120 throws from out there. If he does, we'll get to that later."

The operation is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 2, though that date depends on the schedules of his two orthopedists, Donald Sheridan and Michael Lee.

Lessard said an MRI in the spring revealed a 50 percent tear of the ligament. No further examination was done, but Lessard guessed the ligament was damaged further while his staff tried to help Gonzalez get by with strengthening exercises and ice.

"Unfortunately for him, it's progressively gotten more tender," Lessard said.

Arizona began Monday 22 games out of first place. Gonzalez was in a 1-for-22 slump (.045) in six games going into Monday night's game against San Francisco. He was hitting .264 for the season, with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs in 91 games.

"We need to have him healthy 100 percent next year," manager Al Pedrique said. "It makes a lot of sense for him to do it this time of year, the second half. We're 20, 21 games out of first place, so I respect his decision and we wish him the best."

Gonzalez hit 57 homers in 2001, when the Diamondbacks won the World Series. He also had a career-high 142 RBIs that year, and at least 103 every season since Detroit traded him to Arizona for Karim Garcia in December 1998.

Gonzalez, who turns 37 in September, is in the middle of a three-year, $30 million contract extension he signed with Arizona in March 2003.