Dodgers closer won't need second T. J. surgery

On an evening that the Dodgers were barbecued by the Anaheim Angels, 7-0, the Dodger Nation finally got some good news. Supercloser Eric Gagne does not require Tommy John surgery. Gagne will require only a six-month recovery period, instead of the 12- to 14-month period that Tommy John patients typically require. He should be ready for the start of spring training next year and Dr. Frank Jobe said Gagne should be able to begin tossing around a ball again "in a couple months."

Gagne gets some good news In a season that the 'good news-bad news' quip invariably resulted in the latter, when the doctors opened up Gagne's valuable right elbow, they didn't find what they had expected to find.

Instead of a torn ulnar collateral ligament, they only found a minor problem with a nerve in the elbow and some minor fraying of the ligament that Jobe called "insignificant."

When notified of the finding, Gagne, just coming out of the anesthetic raised his left hand in the traditional "All Right" gesture.

The procedure, instead of installing a complete replacement of the ligament, consisted of shaving to relieve pressure on the elbow nerve, but little else. An MRI exam earlier in the week indicated Gagne would need Tommy John surgery, but Jobe discovered, while standing over the operating table, that only a minor procedure would be necessary.

"This is rare, but it does occur," Jobe said. "(MRIs) are suggestive, but not confirmative. One of the principles of medicine is that you treat patients, you don't treat pictures."

Apparently a nerve was rubbing against the ligament, causing the pain and burning sensation that Gagne described. In a 90-minute procedure at Jobe's office in Los Angeles, the doctors moved the nerve in a process known as neurolysis.

The doctors looked at the elbow joint, which was deemed healthy, and used sutures to close up the ligament. Gagne underwent Tommy John surgery in 1997, but Jobe said that procedure had held up well and didn't require any maintenance.

Gagne. who would likely have been out until the middle of next season, will instead be back for spring training in 2006.

"We haven't gotten a lot of great news lately," general manager Paul DePodesta said. "We're ecstatic that we have a chance to have him for the whole year next year."

The Dodgers also reported that backup catcher Paul Bako underwent successful surgery to reconstruct his left knee by replacing a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Bako, a free agent after this season, also is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

In what comparatively became minor news, the injury-wracked Dodgers were thumped 7-0 by the Angels Friday night in the first of a three-game series.

Jeff Weaver was locked in a tight pitching duel with John Lackey when a soft, two-out pop on the infield dropped in the middle of a group of Dodger fielders, turning a 0-0 games into a 2-0 Angel lead

Lackey only allowed three hits in seven innings -- they finished with five -- as the Dodgers lost for the ninth time in 11 games and absorbed their third shutout in eight outings on a nightmare road trip that has two more games to go.

However, the Dodgers remained 4 1/2 games behind San Diego but if their pennant chase comes up a bit short, they will remember the fifth inning.

Weaver, 6-7, came into the game 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA at Angel Stadium, and cut straight through the first 14 Angels batters, throwing 46 of 64 pitches for strikes, and when he induced a sky-high pop-up off, he appeared ready to carry a perfect game into the sixth inning.

But perfection is elusive and third baseman Antonio Perez had trouble picking up the ball. Cesar Izturis attempted to come to his rescue but the ball popped out of his glove as McPherson ended up at second base.

That erased the perfect game.

A simple ground ball up the middle eluded Jeff Kent and quietly rolled into center field.

That erased the no-hitter and shutout.

Weaver gave up a four-pitch walk and a looping single to left field and suddenly the Dodgers trailed 2-0.

A home run followed the next inning and the game disintegrated quickly from that point, particularly in light of the absence of Dodger offense.

Much of that could be credited to Lackey who got six of the last nine outs by strikeout. He closed out the game by fanning Jason Phillips for the third time.

Weaver gave up five hits and four runs, two of them earned. Rookie Franquelis Osoria was tagged for three runs in the last of the eighth.

Kent got two of the five Los Angles hits, including a double. Izturis had a single as did newly acquired Cody Ross, just up from Las Vegas, and pinch-hitter Oscar Robles also singled.

Dodger Blue Notes--J.D. Drew and his sore knee prompted the Dodgers to cut rookie lefthander Derek Thompson back to Las Vegas and call up outfielder Cody Ross. Thompson, just coming off three scoreless innings Thursday in San Diego, was sent to Triple-A where he will start on Monday. Ross was batting .273 with 13 homers and 35 RBI at Las Vegas. He got the word on Thursday night when he was taken out of the 51s game in the fifth inning. One night later he made the start for the Dodgers in right field. Drew, sidelined with the ominous-sounding chondromalcia, a small cartilage tear that prevents the kneecap from sliding smoothly over the top of the thigh bone, is unsure when he will be back in the lineup. …Also missing was third-base coach Glenn Hoffman who was absent for a third game with post-concussion syndrome. Hoffman was drilled during batting practice by a shot off the bat of Olmedo Saenz and continues to have dizzy spells. …Jacksonville infielder Sergio Garcia was suspended for 15 games for violating baseball's Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Garcia was hitting .271 with one home run and 18 RBI in 33 games for Jacksonville. Earlier this year, Triple-A pitchers Tom Farmer and Heath Totten and infielder Jose Flores were suspended 15 days for violating the program. …Brad Penny makes his second start of the year against the Angels tonight. He had a no-decision on May 21 at Dodger Stadium, allowing one run on five hits in a 3-1 Dodger loss to the Angels.