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Monday, May 13
Franco, 41, will have reconstructive elbow surgery

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- New York Mets reliever John Franco, out for the season because of an injured left elbow, has decided to go through with reconstructive elbow surgery in an attempt to prolong his 18-year career.

John Franco

"I'd always be scratching my head if I didn't get it done, so it doesn't hurt to try," Franco said before Monday night's game at Dodger Stadium.

Franco, second on baseball's career saves list, said he will have the operation Wednesday at the Kerlin-Jobe clinic. Franco, 41, has not pitched this year.

"I've never been one to walk away from a challenge. And this is a challenge. There's really no other alternative.

"I mean, I can go home and lead a normal life without doing the things I want to do. But three or five years from now, if the elbow starts bothering me, I'll have to get it done then. So I might as well get it done now and try to come back," he said.

The operation will be performed by Anaheim Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum. Mets team physician Andrew Rokito will fly in to oversee the surgery.

Franco has not pitched since undergoing surgery on the elbow in December. He had an MRI exam last Wednesday that revealed the injury to the medial collateral ligament and flexor tendon in his pitching elbow.

The three-time All-Star, whose 422 career saves trail only Lee Smith's 478, had scar tissue removed from his elbow in December and was unable to throw without pain all spring.

"Everybody I talked to says, `Go for it.' I saw the doctor today and he didn't tell me anything I didn't already know," Franco said. "He just said the type of surgery is going to be a little longer than usual because of the tendon being torn. And he's going to try to reattach that the best he can."

When asked how long his rehab would take, Franco joked, "If I have surgery Wednesday, I hope by Sunday."

In a tearful press conference last Wednesday at Shea Stadium, Franco broke down while explaining how he told his 10-year-old young son that he couldn't play catch with him because of the pain in his arm.

"In my belly and my mind, I knew what I was going to do. But I just wanted to see what everybody thought, feel them out and get their opinions," Franco said.

"If I didn't try to get it fixed, then it'll be stuck in the back of my mind, "What if? What if?' But if I can get it fixed and can come back toward the middle or end of next year and compete and help the team, so be it."

Yocum will reattach the tendon to his elbow then perform "Tommy John" ligament replacement surgery. Recovery time for that kind of injury usually is at least 12 months.

Among the pitchers who have undergone this surgery were Norm Charlton, Frank Tanana and Frank Viola -- all lefties and all former teammates of Franco. He even sought out advice Monday from Dodgers reliever Jesse Orosco, who at 45 is the oldest player in the majors.

"Jesse Orosco had surgery two years ago at 43, and he's doing well," Franco pointed out.

Franco, who spent his first three seasons of pro ball in the Dodgers' minor league system before being traded to Cincinnati, owns Mets club records with 274 saves and 605 appearances. He was named captain of the team last May.

In the second year of a $10.5 million, three-year contract, Franco needs two more appearances to become the seventh pitcher in history to appear in 1,000 big league games.

"That had nothing to do with it. It didn't enter into my decision," Franco said. "My decision to come back was because I still felt like I could compete. So, God willing, if everything works out, next team at this time I'll be standing here and saying everything's going well."

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