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Closer has Tommy John surgery on left elbow

TORONTO -- Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan will miss the rest of the season after having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow Thursday, a difficult blow for struggling Toronto.

Ryan, who signed a $47 million, five-year contract before the 2006 season, is expected to ready for spring training next year.

"To lose him for the year is not something that we wanted but the reality is he gets it done now and he's ready to go for next year," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "We'll have him for the next three years."

The Blue Jays have lost nine straight, their longest skid since a nine-game losing streak between April 24 and May 3, 2002. Toronto lost a team-record 12 straight games between May 31 and August 10 in the strike-shortened 1981 season.

Ryan was 0-2 with three saves and a 12.46 ERA in five games this season. Last year, he was 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA and 38 saves in his first season since leaving Baltimore as a free agent.

Dr. Timothy Kremchek, the Reds' team doctor, performed the ligament surgery in Cincinnati.

"The doctor was very, very optimistic," Ricciardi said. "Before they open you up, they don't know. You can speculate but you don't know. When they opened him up, he was exactly like [Kremchek] thought. It was a clean operation and [Kremchek] really feels by the time next spring training comes around, he'll be ready to go. That was encouraging."

Ryan initially felt soreness in March during spring training. After two weeks of rest and rehabilitation, he resumed throwing.

Ryan felt worse after a game April 14 against Detroit. He was placed on the disabled list the next day for the first time in his nine-year career.

Later, Ryan flew to Birmingham, Ala., to see renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed there were no ligament tears in Ryan's left elbow. At the time, Ryan was expected to miss six weeks. When the pain did not subside, surgery became an option.

"Usually when guys respond to the early testing it's a pretty good sign that they're going to be OK," Ricciardi said. "[Ryan] was still feeling a lot of pain so at that point we knew surgery might be an option in the future."

Ricciardi revealed on a recent radio show that the Blue Jays had concealed the nature of Ryan's injury during spring training, telling media the closer was suffering from a bad back.

"You take a consistent guy out of the bullpen and it's tough," first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "It's just a matter of the bullpen believing in themselves, going out there and doing it, picking up the slack."

Left-hander Scott Downs and right-handers Jeremy Accardo and Casey Janssen will share save opportunities in Ryan's absence.

"We'll just put them out there and see who's going good," Ricciardi said. "If they're going good, we'll keep riding them."

Also Thursday, the Blue Jays put right-hander Victor Zambrano (strained forearm) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Jamie Vermilyea from Triple-A Syracuse.

Right-hander Shaun Marcum will move out of the bullpen and into Zambrano's spot in the rotation. He will make his first start of the season Sunday against Tampa Bay.

"I was a little surprised," Marcum said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team win."