A's closer could miss two seasons
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Athletics closer Octavio Dotel will have reconstructive elbow surgery as soon as possible, despite receiving recommendations from four doctors that he try to rehabilitate the injury first.
"Octavio does not feel he can pitch with the level of pain he was pitching with," A's trainer Larry Davis said Thursday. "Everybody's tolerance level is different. Octavio feels like he's tried long enough. ... He's been throwing a long time and is tired of recurrent tendinitis."
Dotel will be sidelined at least a year and possibly up to two years. That is a major concern for him because his contract is up after this season.
"I do worry about it," he said. "This year was one of my important years, especially because I [will be] a free agent. Hey, things happen. I bet I'm not the first one to go through this situation. And I won't be the last."
Dotel, who blew four saves in five outings from April 30 to May 11, had the elbow examined by Angels doctor Lewis Yocum and Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Andrews will perform the ligament replacement surgery.
"It's not anything anybody is doing handsprings over," Davis said of Dotel's decision. "In our estimation, you'd like to have everybody give it another try before you do this, so you think you've done everything possible to avoid this."
General manager Billy Beane expressed disappointment that the A's are losing Dotel, but also emphasized that both sides can move on without the uncertainty of his health.
"He saw a number of doctors and it became pretty apparent Octavio wasn't going to be completely satisfied ... or free of the distraction," Beane said. "He was always going to wonder. This gives him peace of mind."
Dotel hopes to be back in a game by the middle of next season, and he hopes it's with the A's. He feels he owes them something to earn his money -- even if his salary is lower and he has to be the setup man for rookie Huston Street, the new closer.
"Hey, if I've got to play for free, I'll do that," he said.
He also accepted the idea that it might be his last day in the Oakland clubhouse.
Dotel is 1-2 with seven saves and a 3.52 ERA, walking 11 in 15 1/3 innings. Davis hasn't seen such a situation before where a player was so adamant about having surgery in spite of doctors' advice.
"You don't try to talk someone out of surgery, because if you do and they don't do well, you're in a no-win situation," Davis said. "There's no guarantee with any surgery. Nothing's 100 percent."
Dotel was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 20 with a strained right elbow. The elbow also bothered him late last season, causing him to rest much of the winter.
Dotel is missing the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, which Davis said he tore at some point. The surgery will entail removing a tendon from elsewhere in his body and weaving it into the elbow area to alleviate some of the muscle strains he's been having.
Oakland acquired the 31-year-old right-hander from Houston in a three-team trade last June 24. The A's worked him in slowly in spring training after Dotel dealt with various injuries last season.
"What I have is not even close to what I had last year," he said. "It's not the same pain, not the same feeling. Tendinitis does not keep you from throwing your slider. What I have now does make me not throw my slider."
He will do his rehab in Miami, closer to his Dominican Republic home. The A's plan to contact the Florida Marlins to determine where he will be treated.
Dotel is signed through this season, so the A's will finance his rehab until his contract expires. He is unlikely to do any baseball work for at least six months after surgery.
"He's got to do what's best for himself. This is a career thing," manager Ken Macha said. "He came to help us out last year and we were in a position to win the division because of him. I hope this is the right decision for him."
There had been speculation all year the A's might try to shop Dotel this summer.
"You're probably not going to get as much in return for him now," Beane said with a smile.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press