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  Thu, June 10, 2004


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Halladay happy for second opinion
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

For a pitcher, there's only one thing worse than being told "you've been traded to the Montreal Expos ... they want you to join them in Puerto Rico."

The words "torn labrum" send shivers from the damaged shoulder to a pitcher's finger tips.

Torn labrum means a tear in the cartilage of the lip-like structure in the shoulder socket and surgery.

Torn labrum was what Jays right-hander Roy Halladay heard from Seattle Mariners medical director Larry Pedegana when he was examined a week ago Tuesday at Safeco Field before being scratched from his start.

Would his reign as American League Cy Young award winner consist of 11 starts in 2004?

"The Seattle doctor gave me a few tests and thought I had a torn labrum," Halladay said. "A tear is worse than Tommy John surgery. I was nervous, but I wasn't that worried."

Halladay was able to sleep that night because:

* He had felt the same pain in the exact same spot, the middle of his right shoulder before and it had gone away with rest, and

* He was flying to Birmingham, Ala. the next day to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews.

The fact that he did not shrivel like a melting block of ice is another indication of the maturity he found after then-manager Buck Martinez demoted him to class-A Dunedin in the spring of 2001 to straighten out his mechanics and find his confidence.

A mere 24 hours and a Seattle-to-Denver-to-Birmingham flight later, Dr. Andrews diagnosed the injury as tendinitis.

"In fairness to the Seattle doctor, it was a quick exam, he didn't have the results of my MRI exam and he didn't know my complete history," Halladay said.

Halladay's history was that six years ago after pitching winter ball for the Lara Cardinales in Venezuela he had the same pain in his shoulder. It was gone by the time he arrived in spring training, cured by rest.

Halladay is scheduled to return to the Jays rotation on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"Dr. Andrews told me exactly what I hoped to hear," Halladay said, "that's a lot better than having to have your shoulder repaired. I'm not a doctor, but I think shoulder surgeries cause more worries among pitchers than a Tommy John surgery on the elbow, which are much more controlled."

The Tommy John operation, named after the former Los Angeles lefty, consists of removing a tendon from the healthy elbow to replace the damaged one, tightening the elbow. As Billy Koch used to say after his post-surgery fastball was clocked at 100 miles per hour: "I highly recommend it."

Jays current closer-without-the-title Jason Frasor has had two Tommy John surgeries.

WHERE'S SIROTKA?

Lefty Mike Sirotka, and his torn labrum, was acquired by the Blue Jays in 2001 from the Chicago White Sox for lefty David Wells. Sirotka, whom Sox general manager Kenny Williams claimed had only "a loose shoulder" has not thrown a pitch in the majors since the trade.

"It was serious enough to miss a start, but when I left Seattle I didn't think I needed surgery," Halladay said.

And without a care in the world, and two healthy shoulders, he and Montreal native Eric Gagne of the Dodgers filmed a clip for tonight's NHL awards show.

After each introduced himself as his league's Cy Young Award winner, it went something like this:

Halladay: "Congratulations to all the winners, you've got a big dinner, you're at a big gala with all the stars."

Gagne: "When we won we got a phone call and a press conference, we didn't get a banquet."

And then Halladay passed Gagne a hot dog.

Halladay: "Stay tuned for the Hart Trophy."