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Shaky bullpen gets shakier
Braves closer Ligtenberg opts for surgery, out for season
Posted: Monday March 29, 1999 05:29 PM
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Kerry Ligtenberg, who took over the Atlanta Braves closer's job last season when Mark Wohlers had control problems, said Monday he will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament.
Ligtenberg, 27, took over the closer's job last season when Mark Wohlers developed control problems. The rookie right-hander converted 30 of 34 save chances, going 3-2 with a 2.71 ERA.
On March 12, Ligtenberg was diagnosed with a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament. He has not thrown since and decided on surgery after an examination Monday by the Braves' orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Joe Chandler.
"He gave me three choices -- wait three more weeks and try to throw, throw right now, and the third choice was to go get the surgery," Ligtenberg said. "I figured I'd do it now. That would put me out 12 months and I'll be ready to go next season."
Ligtenberg, obtained by Atlanta from the independent Prairie League for six dozen baseballs and two dozen bats, is to meet next Monday with the surgeon, Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala.
While Ligtenberg is out, Wohlers appears to be coming back.
He was sent to the minors last season when he couldn't find the plate and his season ended early, but he has been getting better with each spring outing.
In his last three appearances, Wohlers has thrown four scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 5.63. Since giving up four runs in his first appearance against Houston, Wohlers has allowed one run. Overall, in eight innings this spring, he has given up eight hits, walked six and struck out nine.
"Right now, if we had to start the season today, I don't know why we wouldn't open up with him as the closer," manager Bobby Cox said. "It's been an amazing turnaround. Who knows what the odds were? He certainly has beaten them."
"The way I feel right now, I would expect to get the ball," Wohlers said Monday after his 1-2-3 outing Monday in Atlanta's 3-2 exhibition victory over Florida. "But John Rocker, Rudy Seanez and Mike Cather are also pitching well."
Rocker, a left-hander, also is expected to get some opportunities to finish games. Rocker hasn't allowed a run in nine innings this spring, striking out 11 and allowing six hits.
Wohlers began struggling in late May last season after hurting his side and going on the 15-day disabled list. He wound up with a 10.18 ERA in 20 1-3 innings with the Braves, walking 33. At Class AAA Richmond, Wohlers gave up 36 walks in 12 1-3 innings with a 20.43 ERA.
So far this spring, Wohlers appears to have regained the form he had from 1995-97, when he had 97 saves, including a team-record 39 in 1996.
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