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DODGER-ANGEL REPORT

Jordan Might Need Knee Surgery Again

June 28, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna and Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writers

If Brian Jordan's left knee doesn't improve significantly over the next week or so, the Dodger left fielder might undergo surgery that would end his season and, most likely, his Dodger career.

"That's always a possibility," Jordan said when asked about surgery to repair the patella tendon in his left knee, which was diagnosed as strained Thursday. "I want to wait and see how the healing process goes, but I don't want to wait too long. If it does require surgery, I want to be ready for next year."

Jordan, who is batting .299 with six home runs and 28 runs batted in, played most of the 2002 season despite a torn patella tendon in the same knee, putting off surgery until October, and he's beginning to wonder if he gave the knee enough time to fully heal last winter.

Muddling the picture this season is Jordan's contract: The 36-year-old will be a free agent next winter unless the Dodgers exercise a $10.5-million option for 2004. The Dodgers can buy out the option for $2.5 million.

Jordan would have little value -- to the Dodgers or another team -- if he plays through pain this season, puts off surgery and there are serious questions about his fitness next winter. But if he has surgery now, he could be fully healed in time for spring training, likely increasing his value for 2004.

"I don't even want to think about next year," Jordan said, before acknowledging in his next sentence that "one has to think about his future.... I don't want to do the same thing next year, where I come to spring training rehabilitating. I hope it doesn't come to that, but we'll see what happens."

Jordan, who has been bothered by wrist, neck and knee injuries this season, aggravated the knee Tuesday in San Francisco when he lunged for the bag while beating out an infield single. There's a good chance he will go on the disabled list, but neither he nor the Dodgers want to make any decisions until the middle of next week.

"We need to see how it is after a few days of treatment and exercise, see how he progresses, and then make a decision," trainer Stan Johnston said. "Surgery would be his decision."

The pain in Jordan's knee is in the area of last winter's surgery, but not in the exact same spot. "I don't think it's nearly as severe as it was last year," Johnston said.

Jordan probably will sit out the series against the Angels, and he'll have an off day Monday to rest.

"We'll treat it with kid gloves for now and be patient," Manager Jim Tracy said. "We'll see if he can get beyond it, and if not, we'll have to go another route.... With the pain he has, it's difficult to think we could get nine innings out of him on a regular basis."

If Jordan has season-ending surgery, putting more strain on one of baseball's worst offenses, General Manager Dan Evans' pursuit of a bat in the trade market could shift from third base to the outfield. Surgery would also force Evans to expedite the planning process for 2004 and beyond, because surgery or not, it's doubtful Jordan will return next season.

Pittsburgh outfielder Brian Giles would be a possibility, but his $7.5-million salary in the fourth year of a six-year, $38-million contract could put the Dodgers over the luxury tax threshold. A short-term option might be San Diego outfielder Rondell White.

"I don't even want to cross that bridge until we get there," Evans said. "I haven't spent any time thinking about that."

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Pitcher Odalis Perez plans to tone down his act after getting ejected from two of his last three starts for arguing with umpires.

"I know I have to keep my cool -- I don't want to disrespect those guys," Perez said. "Then some of the umpires are going to be hard on me. I don't want that. I don't want a reputation as that kind of guy. I know I have to be more careful about it."

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Fred McGriff, sidelined because of a strained right groin, is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but he said he wouldn't know his chances of playing Sunday until today, when he tests the leg with more strenuous exercise.

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Angel designated hitter Brad Fullmer played through tendinitis in his right knee for all of this season and some of last season, receiving regular treatment and enduring some discomfort. He ruptured the patella tendon in the knee Thursday, ending his season, and he is scheduled for surgery in the next few days.

The tendinitis did not necessarily predispose Fullmer to injury, according to Letha Griffin, an Atlanta orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries. Some athletes play through chronic tendinitis and never rupture the tendon, she said, and others suffer serious injury without any symptoms. While Griffin has not reviewed Fullmer's case, she said there would be no reason for the Angels not to have played him simply because of tendinitis.

"If you kept everybody out who had symptoms of patella tendinitis, you'd ground a lot of your team," she said.

Griffin said the typical rehabilitation period following surgery is three to six months, so Fullmer should be ready to return next season. He attracted little interest in the free-agent market last season and took a pay cut from $3.75 million to $1 million to remain with the Angels, hoping he could recoup the lost wages next season with a good year this season. He hit .306, but the injury makes it likely that any contract he gets next season will include little if any guaranteed salary.

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The Angels' Class-A Rancho Cucamonga affiliate gave out Shawn Wooten bobblehead dolls Friday. The dolls depicted the Angels' utilityman in a Quakes' uniform, and Wooten said his mom was going to the Rancho Cucamonga game to pick up a couple.

"I've never had a bobblehead," he said. "I think it's kind of funny."

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