|Tuesday, February 25
Updated: March 7, 3:44 PM ET
Closer needs more surgery, this time on shoulder bone
Hoffman, fifth in career saves with 352, wouldn't set a timetable for his recovery, but general manager Kevin Towers hopes the right-hander will be available to pitch after the All-Star break. Hoffman, 35, has not been on the disabled list in 10 major league seasons.
"My goal is to get as good as I can get, be healthy, 100 percent and help this ballclub in the future," Hoffman said Tuesday. "I've got the support of the organization, a lot of well-wishers. People coming up and telling you they know you can do it, that means something."
Hoffman has been in pain since Oct. 16 surgery to repair a tear in his rotator cuff and fraying of cartilage in the shoulder.
An MRI Friday in San Diego revealed no further damage to the rotator cuff, but Hoffman has arthritic degeneration of his clavicle. Doctors will shave the edge of the clavicle -- the collarbone -- in an attempt to reduce irritation and give the rotator cuff tendons more room.
"Nothing warranted doing anything to the cuff," Hoffman said. "To me, that's a good thing. I think we found the root of the problem."
Hoffman was 2-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 61 games last year, converting 38 of 41 save chances. Since Bruce Bochy became Padres manager in 1995, Hoffman has 327 of the team's 359 saves (91 percent).
"It's a huge loss," Bochy said. "He's one of the best closers of all-time. But I think there is relief that they know what's going on and they can go in and fix it. It looks like he'll be ready at some point this season."
One of the candidates to step in for Hoffman is former Cleveland Indians pitcher Jaret Wright. He had a similar bone-shaving procedure in September 2001 and was throwing again in four months. Wright had the same surgeon as Hoffman, Anaheim Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum.
"It's going to really hit home if we've got 60,000 fans at Qualcomm Stadium on Opening Day, we've got a 3-2 lead going to the ninth and there's no 'Hell's Bells,' " Towers said, referring to Hoffman's introductory music. "It's going to be somebody we're not used to seeing. We're going to be on edge."
Yocum repaired a rotator cuff tear in 1995 and performed the October arthroscopic procedure. That operation was the first time doctors saw problems with Hoffman's AC joint, where the clavicle meets the shoulder blade. The coarseness of the edge of the collarbone did not show on a previous MRI.
"He's probably got as high a pain threshold as anybody in the game," Towers said. "If this procedure is able to relieve some of the discomfort, then he'll be back. Hoffy's not a guy who relies on velocity. He's mechanically sound; he can locate. He just needs to get to where he's comfortable again."
Hoffman is due $9 million in 2003, the last season of a $32 million, four-year contract. The Padres hold a $10 million club option for 2004 with a $2 million buyout if they decline the option.