March 08, 2009

Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez will undergo a first arthroscopic surgery to repair a labral tear on his right hip that's expected to keep him out six to nine weeks and has an "85 to 90 percent chance'' of allowing him to play the rest of the season.

After days of consultation with noted hip expert Dr. Marc Philippon, Rodriguez decided to have the initial "hybrid'' surgery suggested by the doctor, then have another, more extensive surgery after the season.

The second surgery should completely repair the area by rounding off a bone that had become square through what Philippon said appeared to be 10 years of deterioration.

Since the first surgery, to be performed Monday by Philippon in Vail, Colo., has an "85 to 90 percent'' chance to succeed, there's only a 10 to 15 percent chance he'll need to do the more extensive surgery during the season. With Rodriguez expected back sometime in May, the Yankees for now plan to go with career utilityman Cody Ransom at third base. But if A-Rod has more problems, the Yankees could re-evaluate their third-base situation.

Rodriguez, who hopes to break BarryBonds' all-time home run record, has nine years remaining on his record $275-million, 10-year contract.

A-Rod has a torn labrum and a cyst in his right hip. The cyst was drained Wednesday, and he had additional tests Friday to test the hip's strength and flexibility.

His hip had been fine until he experienced stiffness during spring training this year. The injury forced the 12-time All-Star to skip the World Baseball Classic, where he was to play for the Dominican Republic.

A-Rod could return as early as late April but, barring setbacks, is more likely expected to be back sometime in May. Rodriguez, whose tumultuous spring began with a news conference to explain past steroid usage after Sports Illustrated reported that he failed MLB's 2003 survey test, is expected to remain in Colorado for weeks and undergo rest followed by physical therapy.

Rodriguez was told that the arthroscopic surgery would probably hold up "one to three years" but only fixed half the problem, so he opted for the second surgery in November to completely repair the injury.

While Rodriguez was told that while he should be playing again by May, the exact recuperation period depends on how much bleeding there is in the affected area. In Monday's surgery Philippon will reattach the labrum to the bone to protect the cartilage.

A more complete surgery would likely have required a four-month absence. The offseason surgery is also expected to require about a second two-month recovery period.

There was extensive talk over the past several days over whether Rodriguez could even try to play without any surgery this season. However, A-Rod decided he didn't want worry about possible further damage hanging over his head. A few players, including former A's first baseman Dan Johnson, have played through tears in their hip labrums, which requires cortisone shots and constant monitoring.

Rodriguez was told that the hip injuries of Phillies star Chase Utley and Red Sox star Mike Lowell were somewhat more severe. But Rodriguez's condition is serious enough that the second surgery will require a reshaping of the hip bone by Philippon.

Over what Philippon told Rodriguez was likely 10 years of deterioration, the third baseman's hip has started to become square-shaped, whereas a normal hip is round. Philippon told Rodriguez that needs to be corrected by rounding off the bone, which will be done in the offseason procedure. That surgery is expected to require two months of rest and rehab, meaning he should be ready for next spring.

Philippon discovered the tear after Yankees doctors sent Rodriguez to Colorado following discovery of what they are terming a giant cyst on the hip. The cyst at first was blocking doctors from discovering the underlying problem of the tear. Rodriguez had the cyst drained by Philippon, alleviating the tightness he was experiencing but not correcting the underlying issue..

The cyst is believed to be what was causing tightness in Rodriguez's hip, but as long as the tear is still there, the cyst could always reform. The cyst was not caused by any steroid usage, doctors say.

Last year, Rodriguez was sidelined from April 28 to May 20 because of a strained right quadriceps -- his fifth trip to the disabled list in his career. An MRI exam at that time showed what Brian Cashman called an "irregularity" in the right hip.

Rodriguez's 138 games last season were his fewest since 1999, when he tore cartilage in his left knee during a spring training drill. He played in the first two games of that season with Seattle, then was put on the disabled list April 7 and missed 32 games until he returned May 14.

Since joining the Yankees before the 2004 season, Rodriguez has averaged 42 homers and 123 RBIs, with a .303 average.

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