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Surgery For Braves' Ligtenberg

Kerry Ligtenberg, who took over the Atlanta Braves closer's job last season when Mark Wohlers had control problems, said today he will have season-ending surgery on his ailing right elbow.

Ligtenberg, who converted on 30 of 34 save chances as a rookie last year, was examined by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joe Chandler before today's exhibition game against the Florida Marlins.

The surgery will be performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., probably on Friday.

Ligtenberg, 27, was diagnosed with a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow March 12, two days after allowing five runs in the ninth inning against Houston. He has not thrown since.

Chandler gave Ligtenberg three options today: throw now and see if it hurts, rest for another three weeks and then try to throw, or have the surgery.

"I figure if I do it now, I'll probably be out 12 months, but I'll be ready for next season," Ligtenberg said.

Despite the loss of Ligtenberg, the Braves may not be hurting for a closer.

Wohlers has had a decent spring, pitching three scoreless innings in his last two outings and lowering his ERA to 6.43 in seven innings. He has given up eight hits, walked six and struck out eight.

"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," Cox said

In addition, left-hander John Rocker is also expected to get some opportunities to finish games. He hasn't given up a run in nine innings this spring, striking out 11 and allowing six hits.

Wohlers, whose career was in jeopardy last season because of his control problems, has regained some of the form he had from 1995-97, when he had 97 saves, including a team-record 39 in 1996.

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