Braves reliever Peter Moylan has continued to feel pain in his lower back despite two weeks of rest and an epidural and is resigned to the fact that surgery is likely.
Moylan was examined by an Atlanta surgeon Thursday and is headed to Los Angeles Monday to get a second opinion from renowned spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins.
“Once we have his opinion we’ll decide what we’re going to do, but it looks like surgery is imminent,” Moylan said.
An MRI two weeks ago revealed Moylan has a bulging disc in his lower back, but the veteran sidearmer thought he might be able to avoid surgery because he wasn’t having shooting pains down his leg like he did when suffering a similar problem 10 years ago. Then the pain spread.
“The problem is it’s gone from stiffness to leg pain again,” Moylan said. “That’s what worried a lot of the people.”
Moylan had disc surgeries in 2001 and 2003, when he was out of professional baseball, which is what prompted him to drop down to the sidearm motion and ultimately drew the attention of the Braves in the World Baseball Classic.
Moylan did not want to give a specific timetable for his recovery until he’d received a second opinion, but he is hopeful he can pitch again this season.
“I was encouraged by what I was told by surgeon yesterday,” Moylan said.
Watkins operated on former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in 1993, who came back from disc surgery in three months to open the season. Watkins has also consulted with NHL stars Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Moylan is a lynchpin of the Braves bullpen. He has been among the league leaders in appearances each of the past two seasons, 87 games in 2009 and 85 games in 2010. He was 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in seven appearances this season.
Moylan missed almost the entire 2008 season following elbow reconstruction surgery.
“It’s killing me,” said Moylan of not being able to contribute. “But the quicker we can get it done, the quicker I can get back.”
It’s been hard to watch the seventh and eighth innings come and go without him, especially when the Braves bullpen struggles like it did during the recent West Coast swing.
“Watching on the road trip when the guys in the ‘pen had a few rough outings, you feel responsible,” Moylan said. “You feel like you want to get back out there. You want to help out your mates. It’s something that I obviously can’t pitch through, otherwise I would have. I tried everything I could to avoid where we are right now. It just has to be done.”