PHILADELPHIA -- Eric Gagne could be pitching in Dodgers games in as little as six weeks after undergoing a relatively minor operation on Friday morning to remove a sensory nerve in his right arm.
An upbeat Dr. Frank Jobe, who assisted Dr. Ralph Gambardella, said nothing structurally changed in Gagne's elbow and the procedure, which took "30 minutes or less," went smoothly.
"I think it's good news," said Jobe. "He'll begin throwing a ball in three weeks, and in six weeks, get in a game. Those are guesses, a week one way or the other. I don't think it will be longer than six to eight weeks."
Jobe said a sensory (medial antibrachial cutaneous) nerve just below the skin, near the elbow, had developed a neuroma, or benign tumor consisting of nerve membranes, that had pinched off the nerve like a rubber band and caused pain with every pitch. It's the same nerve that was swollen and entrapped by scar tissue last year, prompting a June operation to release and relocate it.
But doctors on Friday found that the damaged nerve had slipped back into its old location. By removing the nerve, Gagne will no longer feel pain when he pitches, said Jobe, but will experience numbness on the skin along the anterior side of his forearm.
"I think that's better than having a jingle every time he throws," said Jobe. "He said the jingle was getting worse and it made him jump when he throws."
Last year, rushing back from a knee sprain, Gagne suffered a sprained elbow ligament at the end of Spring Training, underwent the June surgery and did not resume throwing until just before Spring Training this year.
In Florida this spring, he admitted he was not rebounding after pitching as quickly as he hoped, his fastball slowed down as the spring progressed, and he allowed three home runs in 10 innings, compared to allowing two home runs during his entire 2003 National League Cy Young Award season. He last pitched Friday night, allowing a home run to the Angels' Garret Anderson.
Trainer Stan Johnston said Gagne never told the club he was in pain until Wednesday, and Gagne frequently told reporters his primary concern was scar tissue he had to pitch through.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.