Glavine to undergo left-elbow surgery
Lefty to rehab four-to-five months, undecided about next year
NEW YORK -- Tom Glavine wasn't provided any surprises while visiting Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham on Wednesday afternoon. With all indications that his elbow discomfort is a result of a damaged tendon, it appears that the 300-game winner will have the opportunity to decide whether he wants to pitch again next year.
An MRI exam performed on Wednesday revealed a partial tear to the flexor tendon in Glavine's left elbow. Andrews will get a better understanding of the extent of damage when he performs surgery on the 42-year-old left-hander Thursday.
The rehab process is expected to last four to five months. This would at least give Glavine a chance to prove he can still pitch before the start of Spring Training. He has said he'll only continue pitching if the Braves welcome him back next year.
"I think four months is more realistic, and five months is a much more conservative timetable," Glavine said. "I'm confident from what I've heard from doctors and from what the MRIs have shown, four months is a much more realistic timetable."
Mike Hampton underwent a similar procedure in April 2007 and felt like he was ready to pitch in a game six months later, but his situation was complicated, given that he was coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
If Andrews had found damage to Glavine's ligament and determined that he needed ligament transplant surgery, the veteran pitcher said he would have declined undergoing the procedure and announced his retirement. The rehab that follows that surgical process lasts at least a year.
Glavine said that he wasn't feeling too uneasy before Wednesday's visit with Andrews. All along, he was confident that he was destined for this tendon surgery and not the ligament surgery, which wouldn't have allowed him to end his career on his own terms.
"Every athlete wants to make the decision of when it's time to walk away and go home," Glavine said. "You want to walk away because you're mentally ready, not because of something physical."
Glavine, who has gone 305-203 during his 22-season career, was originally with the Braves from 1987-2002. After spending five years with the Mets, he returned this season to Atlanta, where his family has always maintained a residence.
When Glavine and Braves general manager Frank Wren spoke last week, they both determined that it was too early to begin discussing plans for next season.
The Braves have to decide how they're going to restructure their starting rotation, and Glavine has to determine whether he'll be physically capable to pitch at a level that will allow him to be consistently competitive.
"I know [Wren] knows that I have an interest in pitching again next year," Glavine said. "All of that will depend on how this all plays out."
Glavine began experiencing elbow discomfort in May and was forced to exit his June 10 start against the Cubs because the pain became intolerable. Two days later, an MRI exam showed that he had a partial tear of his flexor tendon.
Opting against surgery, Glavine rehabbed for two months and returned to the mound to face the Cubs last Thursday. While allowing seven earned runs in four innings, he experienced the same kind of pain that he was feeling earlier this season.
When he signed a one-year, $8 million contract to return to the Braves this season, Glavine had experienced 21 Major League seasons without a trip to the disabled list. He's been disabled three times this season. The elbow, which could be repaired, has accounted for two of those trips.
Glavine was healthy for just three of the 13 starts he made this season. In the four starts he made before his elbow became an issue, he was 0-1 with a 2.60 ERA.
"Before he got hurt, he was pitching lights out," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who said he would welcome Glavine back if he was healthy next season.
Over the course of this season's final five weeks, Glavine plans to be with the Braves while doing his rehab work. The southpaw's current focus will remain on getting healthy. Once the season concludes, he'll gain a better sense of what he might do next year.
"Right now, I just want to see how these five weeks go," Glavine said. "Once the season ends, I'll start thinking more about whether I want to pitch next year."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.