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Surgeries Could End Salmon's Angel Career

September 02, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The lengthy and distinguished Angel career of Tim Salmon, the franchise's home run leader and one of the most popular players in club history, could be over.

The veteran outfielder said Wednesday he would have surgery on his ailing left shoulder and left knee -- undergoing one procedure as early as next week and the other in the next three months -- and he probably would sit out the 2005 season.

"Next year is out of the picture," said Salmon, who is signed for 2005 for $9.75 million. "There's a potential for an eight- to 10-month recovery process for both surgeries, and if we stagger them by two or three months, we're looking at this time next year before I'm healthy."

Salmon, who has 290 home runs in 12 seasons as an Angel, turned 36 last week, and if he sits out all of next season and tries to make a comeback in 2006, he'll be a 37-year-old who has sat out most of two seasons.

Salmon, limited by injuries to 60 games this season, has been in the game long enough to know there isn't much of a market for such players. It has occurred to him over the last week, as he agonized over the decision to have surgery, that his career could be over.

"It's a relief from one aspect in that it's been a nightmare the last six weeks, going back and forth on what to do," said Salmon, who was put on the disabled list Sunday. "But as I was shagging balls [Wednesday] it occurred to me that I might not come back here. I have one more day to shag in Fenway Park, and that may be it. I have one more day of batting practice in Fenway, and that could be it.

"There's a sadness, not just today, but over the last month, going through these feelings. I watch guys play and think, 'I used to do that. I can't do that anymore.' There's been a lot of reflecting, and it's made me realize how fortunate I've been to do this. It's sad to think this could be the end, but in my heart, I feel I can play again. I'd definitely like to end on a better note than this."

When Salmon revealed in August that he had four tears in his shoulder and would need surgery after the season, he chose, at the urging of Manager Mike Scioscia, to gut it out, to remain active in hopes of another shot at a World Series ring.

But when an MRI test Monday revealed significant cartilage damage in his knee -- he might need cartilage transplant surgery --Salmon was advised by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the team physician, to have surgery before the season ends.

"At this stage, I'm at risk of damaging the shoulder and knee more and making them more difficult to repair," said Salmon, who is batting .253 with two homers and 23 runs batted in. "We're not going for a quick fix; we're fixing it for the long haul. Whether baseball is in the picture or not, I'm still young, and I have a life after baseball. I can't keep putting Band-Aids on things."

Sunday's return of Troy Glaus, who came back several weeks early from shoulder surgery, made Salmon's decision a little easier.

"In the last two months, in my heart, I felt I couldn't walk away because the team really needed me," said Salmon, the 1993 American League rookie of the year. "With Troy coming back, I'm not leaving the team hanging."

With the pain in his shoulder and knee getting worse, Salmon also realized that as much as he would love to play in another postseason, it wasn't possible.

"There's no guarantee I would have even been on the postseason roster," Salmon said. "I know how much it hurts now. I don't know if it would be in the best interest of the team for me to be on it. That also made the decision easier."

The Angels are believed to have insurance on Salmon's contract, a policy that should cover a portion of his salary if Salmon sits out next season. Salmon, whose four-year, $40-million deal expires after 2005, wouldn't rule out the possibility of returning in 2006 -- with the Angels or another team -- under an incentive-laden deal with a low base salary.

"We'll see what the situation is," Salmon said. "There are so many variables -- my health, the makeup of the team. I want to come back and be healthy enough to play every day, maybe not 160 games but 140 or 150.

"I'm going at it with the intent to come back and play. The reality is, I have time against me. But I don't want to go out like I'm playing now. In my heart, I feel like I still have it in me. I worked hard this off-season, but my body fell apart. I'd like to go out on a better note."

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Salmon Report

* July 26: Tim Salmon says he is unsure if he will retire after his contract runs out after the 2005 season.

* Aug. 12 : Salmon needs surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and biceps tendon. He could need as much as 10 months to recover. Salmon says he wants to wait until the off-season to have surgery so he can help the Angels get into the playoffs.

* Aug. 29: Salmon had too much discomfort in his shoulder to swing a bat, but still hoped to be back this season. Angels put him on the 15-day disabled list because of left shoulder inflammation.

* Sept. 1: Salmon announces he will have surgery on his left shoulder and left knee and he probably will miss the 2005 season.

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CAREER STATISTICS

*--* Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS Avg OBP Slug 1992 23 79 8 14 1 0 2 6 11 23 1 1 177 283 266 1993 142 515 93 146 35 1 31 95 82 135 5 6 283 382 536 1994 100 373 67 107 18 2 23 70 54 102 1 3 287 382 531 1995 143 537 111 177 34 3 34 105 91 111 5 5 330 429 594 1996 156 581 90 166 27 4 30 98 93 125 4 2 286 386 501 1997 157 582 95 172 28 1 33 129 95 142 9 12 296 394 517 1998 136 463 84 139 28 1 26 88 90 100 0 1 300 410 533 1999 98 353 60 94 24 2 17 69 63 82 4 1 266 372 490 2000 158 568 108 165 36 2 34 97 104 139 0 2 290 404 540 2001 137 475 63 108 21 1 17 49 96 121 9 3 227 365 383 2002 138 483 84 138 37 1 22 88 71 102 6 3 286 380 503 2003 148 528 78 145 35 4 19 72 77 93 3 1 275 374 464 2004 60 186 15 47 7 0 2 23 14 41 1 0 253 306 323 Total 1,596 5,723 956 1,618 331 22 290 989 941 1,316 48 40 283 386 500

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