Lowry to have circulatory problem fixed

Updated: May 19, 2009, 10:15 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

As San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry prepared to undergo surgery for a circulatory problem Tuesday, his agent charged the team's medical staff with misdiagnosing a forearm injury 14 months ago, subjecting Lowry to an unnecessary arm operation and turning a potential short-term recovery into a lengthy medical ordeal.

Lowry
Lowry

Lowry was scheduled to undergo surgery at Baylor University in Texas for thoracic outlet syndrome, the same circulatory problem that befell pitchers Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman and Texas Rangers infielder Hank Blalock.

The surgery, which facilitates circulation with the removal of a rib, typically entails a three-month recovery period.

"We want Noah back on the mound," manager Bruce Bochy said before Tuesday night's series opening against the Padres. "This guy is a good pitcher, a good starter. That's why our goal is, always will be, to get Noah back on the mound. That's never going to change."

Damon Lapa, Lowry's agent, said Tuesday that Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Greg Pearl confirmed the diagnosis in separate consultations with Lowry last week. Lapa said the circulatory issue was the source of Lowry's forearm tightness in August 2007 and a mysterious control meltdown in spring training of 2008, but that the Giants' medical staff failed to identify the problem.

On March 7 of last year, Giants hand specialist Dr. Gordon Brody performed surgery on Lowry's forearm for exertional compartment syndrome -- a neuromuscular condition that can cause pain in the arms or legs. Lowry was unable to pitch last season, and underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery in September after suffering a setback in his rehab.

"Quite honestly, there's a sense of relief. Dr. Andrews and Dr. Pearl have been able to provide answers that the Giants have not been able to provide since Noah got hurt in the fall of 2007," Lapa told ESPN.com. "The two doctors have confirmed the condition and let us know that it's existed since 2007 and essentially been misdiagnosed."

The Giants disputed Lapa's version of events.

"The Giants organization and its medical staff have always treated Noah Lowry's condition appropriately and with the utmost care," the team said in a statement. "We have never performed any medically inappropriate procedures on Mr. Lowry. Per Major League Baseball's labor agreement and federal laws regarding medical privacy, the Giants are prohibited from discussing specific medical information publicly. However, we can state that Mr. Lapa's accusations against our organization are factually inaccurate, intentionally misleading and irresponsible."

Lowry's surgery was first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

Lapa said that Lowry, under the Giants' supervision, began his rehab from the 2008 forearm surgery within two weeks of the procedure. He said that subsequent doctors told him that course of action was a major mistake.

Lapa said that Lowry also received an epidural injection and cortisone shots in his elbow and shoulder in the team's effort to get him back on the field as quickly as possible without identifying the underlying cause of discomfort in his arm.

"Not only did they perform the wrong surgery, but Noah did the wrong rehab along with it, and he's basically been spinning his wheels for the last six to eight months," Lapa said.

Lowry, 28, has a career 40-31 record with a 4.03 ERA. He led the Giants with 13 victories in 2005 and again with 14 in 2007.

The Giants have a $6.25 million contract option on Lowry for 2010. If they decline to exercise it, as expected, Lowry will be eligible for salary arbitration next season.

Lowry expects to resume full baseball activities later this summer and be ready to pitch well in advance of spring training, Lapa said.

"His prognosis moving forward is going to be a clean bill of health," Lapa said. "Both of these doctors are confident that when they do this surgery, Noah is going to be able to pitch for another 10 years."

Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer