Hampton to make decision on Tommy John surgery

PHILADELPHIA -- Braves left-hander Mike Hampton, who has been out since Aug. 20 with a herniated disc, now faces the likelihood of Tommy John surgery.

Hampton was examined by Dr. Dave Altchek in New York on Thursday. Altchek, the New York Mets' team doctor, confirmed the earlier diagnosis of the Braves medical staff that the source of Hampton's forearm pain is coming from his elbow and that he might require reconstructive surgery.

"The pain in the forearm is coming from a ligament in the elbow that needs to be reconstructed," Braves general manager John Schuerholz, quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said of Altchek's report. "... It wasn't unexpected, but it's still a disappointing development. He was a real big part of our pitching staff, and pitched sensationally at the start of the season."

Tommy John surgery, named for the Dodgers and Yankees left-hander who first underwent the procedure, replaces the injured elbow ligament with a ligament from the non-throwing arm. Rehabilitation often lasts about a year.

Hampton will meet with the Braves in New York this weekend and make a decision on the surgery. The NL East-leading Braves entered Friday night's game against the Mets with a six-game lead over the Marlins and the Phillies.

"It's a devastating blow for us," pitcher John Smoltz told the Journal-Constitution. "I don't think people realize how valuable he was to our rotation. That's why we kept holding out hope that he'd be able to give us something [in the playoff drive]."

Hampton is 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA this season, making only 12 starts because of four trips to the disabled list. He's signed through 2008 and is owed $43 million over the next three seasons -- $13.5 million in 2006, $14.5 million in 2007, and $15 million in 2008.

Hampton joined Atlanta in 2003, reviving his career after two
horrible seasons in Colorado. A 22-game winner with Houston in
1999, Hampton spent one season with the Mets in 2000 and then two
with the Rockies.

He won 14 games in 2003 and went 13-9 with a 4.28 ERA last year.
The 33-year-old has a career record of 138-101 with a 3.97 ERA.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.