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Thursday, June 13
 
Doctors hopeful Reynolds can return in '03

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Houston Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds underwent surgery Thursday to repair a pinched nerve in his lower back, and will miss the rest of this season.

The procedure, known as a microdiscectomy, entails removing disc fragments that were pressing on a nerve. Doctors are optimistic that the right-hander will be able to return next season, said general manager Gerry Hunsicker.

Houston placed Reynolds on the 15-day disabled list and recalled right-hander Brandon Puffer from Triple-A New Orleans.

The 34-year-old Reynolds was 3-6 with a 4.86 earned-run average in 13 starts. The 2000 National League All-Star ranks seventh on the Astros' career list with 103 wins and fifth on the team's career strikeout list with 1,309.

Puffer, 26, is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in 15 appearances for the Astros. In six games with New Orleans, he is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA.

The Astros plan to purchase the contract of right-hander Kirk Saarloos from Double-A Round Rock to start in Milwaukee on Tuesday night.

A third-round selection by the Astros in the 2001 draft, Saarloos is 10-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 13 starts. The 23-year-old right-hander has allowed 48 hits in 83.1 innings while walking 21 and striking out a Texas League-best 82.

"This is an ambitious move to promote a player in his first full year of professional baseball, but Kirk has been most impressive and appears to have the poise and maturity to handle this challenge,'' Hunsicker said.

Saarloos would be the second player from the 2001 draft to appear in a major league game. Chicago Cubs right-hander Mark Prior was the first, making his debut May 22.