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Green Shoulders Problem

The Dodger right fielder, who has had a significant decrease in his power numbers, has been playing in pain since spring training and expects to have surgery following the season.

September 02, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Struggling Dodger right fielder Shawn Green revealed Monday he has played with a painful right shoulder injury since spring training, and expects to undergo surgery after the season.

Green underwent an MRI exam Aug. 19 that showed labrum damage and bursitis on the back of his right shoulder. He has taken anti-inflammatory medication since the spring in an effort to remain in the lineup, and is determined to play in the postseason if the Dodgers earn the National League wild-card berth.

Although Green acknowledged that the injury has affected his ability to hit for power, he would not use it as an excuse for his significant drop in run production.

"Is it a problem? It's a factor, but I haven't asked out of the lineup," said Green, who went 0 for 3 in a 10-1 loss to the Houston Astros.

After hitting 91 home runs with 239 runs batted in the previous two seasons, Green has 12 homers and 61 RBIs this season.

"You have things physically you have to deal with," he said. "So what I'll say is that there are several factors, and this is definitely one of them."

Green last week declined to comment on whether he had been hampered by an undisclosed injury.

The two-time All-Star reluctantly agreed to discuss the situation Monday on being informed that a source within the organization said he had been playing with a shoulder injury, diagnosed as fraying of the posterior inferior labrum. The damage is at the joint on the back lower part of Green's right shoulder.

The Dodgers are monitoring the situation that Green had hoped would remain in-house.

"Am I aware of the fact that he has some soreness in his shoulder? Yes, I am," Manager Jim Tracy said. "But has it been something to where he has wanted to come out of the lineup or not participate? No. He and I have never had that conversation."

Some within the organization had suspected something was physically wrong with Green from the start of the season, though Green publicly maintained that he was fine.

"It's the type of injury where, regardless of how it feels, I'm going to play this year," said Green, who is not sure how the injury occurred.

"There's nothing I can do about it right now. I just have to play through it."

Green's season-long slump is among many reasons the Dodgers have the worst offense in the National League.

Green is tied for the National League lead with 44 doubles, and has delivered some timely hits as the Dodgers have remained in wild-card contention. Much more was expected, however, from the player the Dodgers have built their offense around.

"The frustrating thing is ... my swing is the most frustrating part of it," said Green, who averaged more than 38 homers and 112 RBIs from 1998 through 2002.

"In the cage, I'll feel like I'm on the right path, but my body just won't stay through the ball. My top hand takes over, whereas my bottom [right] hand is really the base of my power.

"It cuts my swing off, and that's been the toughest part. I feel it, and I'm compensating for it in my swing. I have been all year."

Green has played in 134 of the team's 136 games. The anti-inflammatory medication has helped reduce Green's discomfort, enabling him to take batting practice and participate in drills.

Green initially took the medication because of tendinitis in his left (throwing) shoulder in the spring, but continued to take it because of the injury to his right shoulder. He briefly stopped using the medication, but pain caused him to resume.

The Dodger medical staff determined that Green's shoulder is sound enough for him to play, General Manager Dan Evans said.

"This was never a situation, there was never any condition, that precluded him from playing," Evans said. "He always wanted to play. He wanted to be in the lineup and he wanted to perform. As far as his shoulder being an issue, nobody really knows what role his shoulder played in terms of his season. No one has that answer.

"This is a guy who is the ultimate team player, so I'm not in any way getting in any kind of a disagreement with Shawn [about the effect of his injury]. But our training staff felt all along, along with Shawn, that he could still perform. The MRI we recently had indicated that there was something that we should reevaluate at the end of the season, but nothing that prevented him from being out on the field."

Green plans to have a more comprehensive MRI exam after the season. If the results are as expected, surgery would then be scheduled.

"They really don't know what they're going to find until they get in there, but I'm hoping that it will just be minor surgery," Green said. "Right now, I'm just going to keep focusing on the season."

Green's commitment to the Dodgers has increased his stature in the clubhouse.

"I was wondering when this was going to come out, because he's known about it for a long time," said center fielder Dave Roberts, among few teammates in whom Green confided. "But when you see your team struggling, and he's such an unselfish player, he wants to be in the lineup despite taking all the criticism from people about not putting up power numbers.

"He's never been a guy who has looked to come out of the lineup, and he's not trying to make excuses. He's been hurt for the whole year and didn't say anything about it [publicly]. When you've got an injury like he has, it takes away from a big part of his game, and a lot of people would ask to be out of the lineup, especially with the criticism he's taken. He feels he wants to be out there in the field at whatever cost and ... he's just the consummate team player."

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