Big blow for the Giants. Looks like Nen will miss the 2004 season.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Trainer Stan Conte isn't counting on closer Robb Nen pitching for the San Francisco Giants
this season, yet Conte expects ace Jason Schmidt to be ready by early April as planned.
Schmidt, recovering from elbow surgery, might throw off the mound for the first time next week.
Nen, a three-time All-Star who had 43 saves and a 2.20 ERA in 2002, didn't pitch last year after right shoulder surgery May 7 to repair a torn tendon. He has been rehabbing and is throwing off a mound a couple times a week.
"I told (general manager) Brian Sabean he'll be ready opening day or he'll probably never be ready," Conte said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "The extent of his surgeries can in fact be career-ending. We're very cautious, not even cautiously optimistic."
And with good reason.
Nen's throwing shoulder did not respond well to operations in November 2002 and last April 18. The 34-year-old Nen, the Giants' career leader in saves with 206, was on the disabled list all last season. He has 314 saves in his 11-year career.
"The poor guy has been doing rehab for three years, doing what we've asked him to do, and has thrown off the mound," Conte said. "The bottom line on Robb Nen is we will not know until he has a rehab assignment, so we're going to hold judgment on this until he pitches. I'm not going to be upbeat about Robb Nen all the way through until he picks up his 45th save. I don't want to put a lot of pressure on him."
Conte saw Nen two weeks ago in Arizona and the two talk several times a week.
Schmidt had surgery in October on his right elbow to remove scar tissue and repair a tear in the tendon.
Schmidt, who has been hampered by elbow tendinitis several times in his career, was the NL starter in his first All-Star Game last season, pitching two scoreless innings on short rest. His elbow flared up the following day.
He will be limited early in spring training
"He's been throwing for about a month and is having no problems with his elbow," Conte said. "We will be careful with him early on to make sure he's strong enough to get through."
Schmidt's elbow gave him more problems on breaking pitches late last season. "Until he throws a curveball in competition we'll be holding our breath," Conte said.
The lanky right-hander missed a turn and his sore elbow limited him down the stretch for the NL West champions. After Schmidt pitched a three-hit shutout in the Giants' 2-0 Game 1 victory over the Florida Marlins in the NL Division Series, rookie Jerome Williams started Game 4 over Schmidt, who would have been pitching on three days' rest. Manager Felipe Alou was criticized for the move, but said Schmidt was physically unable to go.
Schmidt had a breakout season in 2003, going 17-5 with the National League's lowest ERA (2.34).
In addition to Schmidt, right-hander Jesse Foppert also is recovering from elbow surgery late in his rookie season
. He had reconstructive surgery in September and won't be ready to pitch again until this September.
He has been working with Conte in San Francisco and is throwing on flat ground.
"We're going to be ultra cautious and conservative and not put pressure on these guys to be ready by a certain date," Conte said. "With all these pitchers you just can't tell until they get into competition whether they'll hold together."