Gonzalez to have season-ending surgery

Updated: July 29, 2004, 4:50 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Arizona slugger Luis Gonzalez will have season-ending ligament replacement surgery Monday, but expects to return to the Diamondbacks by next spring.

The left fielder 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.

Team orthopedists will perform Tommy John surgery in Phoenix on an off-day for the team.

"It's kind of a relief mentally now that I know the date and that it's going to get done," Gonzalez said before Thursday's game against Houston.

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

"That's the large unknown," Lessard said. "We think it could be an eight-month program. Hopefully he'll be ready by the end of the spring."

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.

Gonzalez, hitting .264 with 17 homers and 46 RBI, will miss a chance at his sixth consecutive year with 100 RBI. He plans to play until he has the operation, though, with his last game of the season coming Sunday at Colorado.

It will be the end of what the 36-year-old Gonzalez has called the toughest season of his career.

The Diamondbacks (32-71) have the worst record in the majors, recently ending a 14-game losing streak in Houston that was the longest in franchise history. The last two weeks have been complicated by the swirl of trade rumors involving All-Star pitcher Randy Johnson and veteran center fielder Steve Finley.

"The speculation, the 14-game losing streak ... as an older player, you just want to win," Gonzalez said. "Right now, I know that it's important for me to try get healthy for next season."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press