It will take time, patience and, most of all, hard work. But the chances of a full recovery for Philadelphia's Randy Wolf after Tommy John surgery are quite good.

Take it from the man himself.

"Randy will pitch again," John said in a telephone interview the other day. "The odds are very much on his side."

The radical surgery that saved John's career has been perfected in the nearly 31 years that have passed since the 288-game winner had it.

Doctors know exactly what they're doing when they take a tendon from a forearm and graft it into the opposite elbow, replacing a ruptured or worn ulnar collateral ligament.

Dozens of major leaguers have had the surgery, including Wolf's teammates Jon Lieber, Cory Lidle and Rheal Cormier. Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne had it as a minor leaguer in 1997, then won the 2003 National League Cy Young Award. Gagne is currently on the disabled list with a sore elbow and could be facing the surgery for a second time.

If Gagne has the procedure again, he will know what to expect. John didn't have that luxury in September 1974.

The man for whom one of the most important baseball innovations of our time is named recalled some of the details leading to his surgery.

He had had pain in his left elbow from the time he was 13, through his minor league years. He never said anything about it because those were the days when injured minor leaguers were sent home.

From 1963, when he broke in with Cleveland, until 1974, when he was with the Dodgers, John estimates he had 40 cortisone injections. He was having one when JFK was assassinated. He pitched with pain until July 17, 1974, when his frayed elbow ligament finally gave out.

At 31, John agreed to let the Dodgers' team physician, Frank Jobe, try a revolutionary surgery. It was either that or quit. John was not frightened, and he didn't think Jobe was nuts.

"I trusted him," John said. "He had no idea what the odds were of me pitching again. But he did tell me, 'If you don't have the surgery, you have zero chance.' "

John missed the 1975 season while rehabilitating. He pitched 14 seasons after the surgery, won 164 more games, and never missed another start with an arm-related problem.

"That was toughest for me, dealing with not competing," John said. "The physical part was no problem. Dr. Jobe told me I'd pitch again, and I didn't care if it took one year, two years or three years, as long as I could pitch again."

* THROWBACK PERFORMANCE: The Braves' Julio Franco's two-homer performance against the Reds last night comes on the heels of his two-steal game in the series opener on Thursday.

"After the first home run, or maybe it was the second, I was thinking that he's kind of like a position player you could compare to Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson," said Reds Manager Dave Miley, who at 43 is three years younger than Franco. "I don't know if remarkable's the right word, but he's impressive."

* SLAMMING THE DOOR: When Giants closer Tyler Walker ended last night's game with three straight strikeouts, he became the first pitcher to strike out the side with the bases loaded to end a game since baseball began keeping track of saves in 1969, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

* TRICKLE-DOWN RIVALRY: The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is alive and well, even in the minor leagues. With the Yankees Class AA club, the Trenton Thunder, playing seven games against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester -- deep in Red Sox country -- team officials are cracking down on offensive T-shirts, abusive comments and rude chants.

"When people wear the 'Yankees Bleep' shirts, we don't tolerate that," Fisher Cats President Shawn Smith said. "We ask them to turn those T-shirts inside out. If people don't comply, we'll give them their money back and tell them they're welcome to leave."

-- From News Services

Randy Wolf pitches against Milwaukee on June 11 before going on the disabled list with elbow pain.