PHILADELPHIA - Atlanta Braves pitcher Paul Byrd will be lost for two to four months after electing to undergo surgery to remove a bone spur in the back of his right elbow.
The surgery will be performed Friday morning by Dr. Craig Morgan in Wilmington, Del., and Byrd will begin rehabilitation immediately.
"I'm extremely frustrated," said Byrd, who rented a car and drove to Wilmington on Tuesday to be examined by Morgan. "I could throw, but I couldn't pitch. It's just not getting any better."
Said manager Bobby Cox: "I think it's the best thing to do at this point. It's real tough on him and it's tough on the club."
After struggling through a rehab start with Class AA Greenville last week, Byrd discussed his elbow with team officials and doctors. It was obvious that a cortisone shot had not made a difference and his elbow was not improving.
"The fact is, when I pitched in Greenville, I wasn't sharp," Byrd said. "It was hard to throw breaking balls. We waited a couple of days and it really hasn't come back well. I can put up with the pain, but I can't put up with leaving balls over the middle of the plate. It didn't affect my velocity, but it affected the life on the ball. I didn't have good life on the ball and I didn't have location."
Head trainer Jeff Porter said Byrd could return as quickly as two months, or his recovery could take much longer.
"It could cost him a whole year," Porter said. "Obviously, we hope not and expect it won't. We're hoping it's the low end (of recovery)."
Byrd, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal this winter that pays him $3 million this season, experienced some pain in his elbow last summer, but pitched through it and wound up winning 17 games with the Kansas City Royals.
The pain returned in his first spring training start March 4 and he was placed on the disabled list March 21.
"In a strange way, there's a little bit of relief," he said. "I can come back and be 100 percent. If I took the field now, I could only give the Braves 70 to 75 percent. I'm trying to stay positive. I want to give this team a good boost in the second half."
Byrd's loss places additional pressure on No. 4 starter Jason Marquis. He is now expected to take a regular turn and win 10 to 12 games, instead of moving to the bullpen when Mike Hampton returns.
"We'll cover it, we're fine," Cox said. "We've got Jason in there right now and he's doing well, and we'll get Hampton back in a week or so."
NO DECISION YET: At game time Wednesday, Cox still had no idea who his starting pitcher will be in tonight's series finale against the Phillies.
He was leaning toward Trey Hodges, but if he had to use the rookie in Wednesday's game, he planned to go with Joe Dawley or Jung Bong. He had several conversations with general manager John Schuerholz regarding whether to recall a pitcher from Class AAA Richmond, but none of the R-Braves are pitching well, with the exception of reliever Bobby Jones.
Cox might piece together the game with the bullpen, using a different reliever every two or three innings.
"We'll just have to wait and see how (Wednesday's) game goes," he said.
THAT'S THE BREAKS: With Greg Maddux working on three days rest Wednesday and Thursday's starter unknown, the Braves would not have minded if Wednesday night's game had been canceled.
No such luck, however. Although it rained throughout the morning, the drizzle stopped by mid-afternoon and the game started on time. But with a fierce wind blowing, it felt even colder on the field then it did Tuesday night, and the players were bundled up again.
"It couldn't get much colder and still play in it," Cox said. "If it drizzled tonight, with the wind and the temperature, it would be a little unbearable. I don't know if muscles operate in these temperatures."
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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