06/11/2002 8:31 pm ET
No timetable for Brown to return
Doctor says medical procedure went well
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The surgeon who operated on Kevin Brown's back Tuesday found a "large herniation" of a disc and was not optimistic the Dodger ace would pitch again this year.
"I would be guarded in any recommendation he's going to be able to return this
year," said Dr. Robert Watkins. "We found a large disc herniation, a large
number of fragments of the disk compressing the nerve. We removed those with a
microscope, through a tubular-like retractor. Things went very well technically.
I anticipate a good result."
The 37-year-old Brown, already on the disabled list with a second year of elbow
problems that included surgery last September, was said by the club to have
suffered the back injury playing at home with his son nearly two weeks ago.
Brown had already been placed on the 15-day disabled list May 27 with a posterior medial sprain of the elbow, his second stint on the disabled list this
season and sixth in three-plus seasons as a Dodger.
Brown is the highest-paid Dodger at $15 million annually through 2005, when he
will be 40. He averaged 34 starts his first two years as a Dodger, but had 19
last year and only nine this year.
"There's no reason to think he won't return to full activity," said Watkins.
But the doctor was hesitant to predict what year that would be.
"We'll take it one week at a time and see how he feels," said Watkins. "He won't
return to even soft toss until he's pain free and doing great and able to do all
the rehabilitation exercises we want him to do."
The exercises consist of a trunk stabilization program. Eric Karros utilized a
similar program over the winter after a 2001 season plagued by lower back
On a scale of small/medium/large, Watkins said Brown's herniation was "large"
and his pain was "excruciating." Compression on the nerve by disk fragments
caused "a little weakness in his (right) leg, not real severe. For all those
reasons it takes time to recover from herniation."
Watkins said the nerve was monitored during the surgery and appeared to return
to normal. But Watkins was reluctant to put a likely timetable on Brown's return
to game action because "recovery time varies from patient to patient." Brown is
expected to remain hospitalized two more days.
General manager Dan Evans indicated Brown had "occasional aches and pains"
previously, but this "flared up" in the last couple weeks. Although the Dodgers
never indicated that Brown's herniation was "large," Evans said he was
encouraged that the surgery "went exactly as planned."
"Kevin Brown will return when Kevin Brown is healthy, independent of any needs
we have," said Evans. "We're willing to be very patient. In time we'll know
(whether he returns this year) and when we know we'll act accordingly. If not,
it's nobody's fault."
Ken Gurnick covers the Dodgers for MLB.com. This article was not subject
to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.