Atlanta Braves closer Kerry Ligtenberg has a partially torn ligament in his right elbow and will be sidelined for at least one month and possibly the entire season.
After examining the results of Thursday's MRI, Dr. Joe Chandler said under a best-case prognosis, Ligtenberg would be able to resume throwing in 4-to-6 weeks. However, he could need surgery that would end his season.
"The uncertainty of whether it's going to heal or not is what's bothering me," Ligtenberg said. "I don't like the fact that I'm going to be resting and trying to make it better when there's no way we can really tell if it gets better until I go out on the mound again."
Ligtenberg, diagnosed with a partially torn medial collateral ligament, had appeared in two games this spring, giving up five runs Wednesday in his first save situation, 10-7 loss to Houston. He said he felt pain against the first batter and it never got better.
"I felt some stiffness and was real sore right after the inning and the next day," Ligtenberg said. "I was hoping it wasn't as bad as it was. I can't pinpoint exactly when it happened or if it was one pitch ... It was right after the inning that I noticed my whole forearm was in a knot."
Ligtenberg had a breakthrough year in 1998, taking over the closer's role after Mark Wohlers experienced control problems and was sent to the minors.
The former independent league player, once traded for a bag of baseballs, wound up with 30 saves in 34 chances.
"It is a substantial blow to our bullpen," said Braves general manager John Schuerholz, who told his scouts to be on the lookout for potential replacements. "But a lot of people in our organization have always thought John Rocker could fill that role."
Rocker has appeared in two innings this spring and has not allowed a run. He was 1-3 in 47 games last year for Atlanta with a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings.
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