Werth undergoes specialized surgery

Werth undergoes specialized surgery

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Jayson Werth believes his wrist is finally fixed.

Unfortunately, it required a specialized surgical procedure, it's currently in a splint with pins inserted to hold a ligament in place, and he doesn't expect to be ready for the start of Spring Training.

"It was a lot worse than anyone thought," said Werth.

The injury was caused by a 95-mph A.J. Burnett fastball that drilled Werth's wrist in the Mar. 2 Spring Training opener. He was diagnosed with a small avulsion fracture of the wrist, missed the rest of the spring and the first 44 games of the regular season before playing the remainder of the year in varying degrees of pain.

When Werth began offseason workouts three weeks ago, the pain returned. An arthrogram conducted by Dr. Brian Adams, a wrist and ligament specialist at the University of Iowa, revealed a torn ligament. Werth said it wasn't clear whether the tear was caused by the impact of the ball or from his pulling away from the pitch.

Dr. Norman Zemel performed arthroscopic surgery last week and inserted pins to repair a complete ligament tear near the base of the hand. He also cleaned fraying in the middle of the ligament.

Werth said stitches will be removed on Monday and he will wear a cast for six additional weeks, at which time the pins will be removed and his status will be re-evaluated before baseball activities can resume. That would be mid-January.

"It's a bitter ending to a poor season," said Werth, who also had a bursa sac removed from his left knee in October.

"Initially, I was told it was a fracture and in two weeks I'd be okay, but it still hurt. Eight weeks later, it still hurt and it never felt right. I don't think the bone was the injury, it was the ligament. It's unfortunate that eight months later, my hand is in a cast and my fingers are swollen and I'm months away from playing again. I'll be surprised if I'm ready by the beginning of Spring Training."

Werth, 26, hit .262 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs in 290 at-bats in 2004 after being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays. He came to Dodgertown last spring expecting to be the starting left fielder, but wound up hitting .234 with seven homers and 43 RBIs in 337 at-bats, his slugging percentage dropping 112 points.

"I showed in '04 what I can do when I'm healthy. I can make an impact and it was no fluke," he said. "This year, at no time were things right in my wrist and when they went in there and found that it was severe, at least I've got the evidence of why. That explained a lot to me.

"I'm very interested in getting the wrist healed and as close to 100 percent as possible before I try to play. I've shown what I can do with it injured and nobody wants to see that again. I want to be the Jayson Werth that hit 16 home runs and helped the Dodgers win the [NL West]. I'm looking forward to that for myself, for the organization and for the fans. I love playing in L.A. and love being a Dodger. My agenda right now is to get healthy."

Werth said doctors could not guarantee the injury would heal completely, however, they told him it should get to "the upper 90 percent."

Although Jose Cruz Jr. was re-signed for outfield depth, uncertainty over the timing of Werth's return adds to new general manager Ned Colletti's winter workload. The Dodgers already have their other two starting outfielders -- Milton Bradley and J.D. Drew -- recovering from operations: Bradley from a torn patella knee tendon, Drew from repair work on his wrist and shoulder.

In addition, Cy Young closer Eric Gagne and All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis are healing from elbow operations. Gagne is expected to be ready for Spring Training, Izturis not until the All-Star break.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.