Shoulder injury puts end to Gibbons' year

The Baltimore Sun

Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons will have surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, prematurely ending one of the most disappointing seasons of his professional career.

Gibbons decided to have the surgery Monday after an arthrogram confirmed a "fairly substantial" tear in the front of his shoulder that Gibbons thinks occurred when he dived for a ball in the outfield in late May.

Gibbons will likely remain active with the club through the homestand that ends tomorrow before going on the disabled list for the rest of the season. The surgery will be performed by Cincinnati Reds team physician Timothy Kremchek, who also did the ligament-transplant surgery on Brian Roberts' left elbow in September 2005.

"When you have three doctors telling you that it has to be done now, you kind of have to listen," Gibbons said. "I was trying to push it to September to play as long as possible. I wanted a drop-dead date on when I had to have it, and everybody was telling me that you need to have it right now in order to be ready for next spring. When you got guys that practice medicine, I think they know a little better than me."

Gibbons said he'll have his arm in a sling for about three weeks after the surgery, but he expects to be ready for spring training.

"It's a long recovery, up to six months," Gibbons said. "You're starting over with everything. I'm going to lose a lot of my strength, and I'm going to have to build myself again."

It's been a disappointing season for Gibbons, who entered yesterday with a .230 average, six home runs and 28 RBIs, which will all be career lows. The 30-year-old and second longest-tenured member of the club behind third baseman Melvin Mora got off to a dreadful start, hitting just .197 with one home run and eight RBIs in April.

He was frustrated early by his role under former manager Sam Perlozzo and was never was able to pull himself out of the slump. He had shown some signs lately, hitting .281 in July with three home runs and 10 RBIs, and .368 with one RBI in five games this month. Gibbons said his shoulder injuries didn't hinder his swing, but it made throwing the ball from the outfield difficult.

"I'm not going to make excuses on anything," said Gibbons, who had essentially become a part-time player. "This year has been a mystery for me, just for the fact that it was the hardest I ever worked in the offseason on my hitting and on my conditioning. I completely rededicated myself. That's what makes it so disappointing.

"I always work hard, but I've never spent this much time in the offseason working. And it backfired. I can honestly say it backfired."

Gibbons has two more years and $11.9 million left on the four-year, $21.1 million deal he signed before the 2006 season. His health has always been a question mark, as he has played more than 100 games in a season just three times in seven seasons with the club. Gibbons knows there is a possibility that the club might try to dump his contract after the season, though his poor 2007 numbers and his injury history could make that difficult.

"It actually did cross my mind once," Gibbons said when asked if he has considered whether he has played his last game as an Oriole. "You never know in this game. ... I asked [the team] not to DL me until after the game [tomorrow]. If [manager Dave Trembley] needs me, I'm going to be in there. I would hope this isn't it. All I know is I'm under contract for two more years here."

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