By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 25, 2006; E05
Washington Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen will undergo elbow surgery today, a procedure that will end his season and could end his career with the Nationals.
Guillen visited with renowned orthopedist James Andrews yesterday in Birmingham, and an examination revealed a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in Guillen's right elbow. "It was completely torn in half," General Manager Jim Bowden said.
Guillen will need ligament replacement surgery, a procedure most commonly used on pitchers whose elbows give way. Recovery could take anywhere from eight to 18 months, putting Guillen's future in serious doubt.
Guillen injured the elbow last Tuesday at Florida when he made a throw in the first inning that sailed awkwardly toward third base. His elbow was severely swollen afterward, when he said, "It burned like it was on fire." Bowden, though, believes that was just the breaking point.
"Obviously there was probably tearing of the ligament in the elbow for quite some time," Bowden said.
Guillen, 30, has long had a reputation as a disruptive force in clubhouses, and he is a free agent after this season. Even before the injury, he was having a poor season, hitting .216 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 69 games while battling shoulder, wrist and hamstring injuries.
"Obviously, he's at the point where he's been frustrated, he's been not able to perform up to his capabilities this year," Bowden said. "And obviously, it was for physical reasons, not talent reasons."
Bowden said it was "not the time" to address whether the club would pursue signing Guillen next year or beyond. He made $4 million this season, and his best hope now would be to latch on with a one-year deal in hopes of revitalizing his career.
In a career that has spanned parts of 10 seasons and included tenures with seven major league teams, Guillen hit .272 with an average of 21 homers and 83 RBI for every 162 games played. Yet he never developed into the superstar the Pittsburgh Pirates projected when they made him an Opening Day starter in 1997 at age 20.