CINCINNATI -- The Pirates' trade that sent John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Chicago Cubs took another blow.
Potentially, a huge blow.
Jose Ascanio, the right-handed starter/reliever acquired in that four-pitcher exchange July 30, underwent arthroscopic surgery yesterday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The procedure was done by Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist, in Pensacola, Fla.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington did not offer a timetable for Ascanio's return, but it is immensely unlikely he will be ready for early next season. And it could be longer.
Few pitchers return from shoulder surgeries as proficient as they were beforehand. Will Carroll, expert on pitching injuries and author of the book, "Saving the Arm," once wrote, "If pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed." His five-year study showed that, of 36 Major League Baseball pitchers diagnosed with torn labrums, only one middle reliever regained peak form.
Recent shoulder surgeries involving the Pirates: Dave Williams had labrum surgery and never came close to peak form. Phil Dumatrait had minor arthroscopic surgery in mid-2008 and still is struggling. And, on the other end, Sean Burnett had shoulder surgery and is pitching better than ever in Washington.
Huntington did not elaborate on the surgery or injury, saying only, "All surgeries give cause for concern. But, in this case, we have every reason to believe he will make a full recovery."
Ascanio made only two appearances after the trade, the final one coming Aug. 11 in Denver. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder pain after that, then transferred to the 60-day disabled list last month after an aborted attempt to pitch again this season.
All through that, Ascanio was adamant that he never felt shoulder pain before the trade. Huntington backed that yesterday by saying, "Our information confirms Jose's statement."
The other pitcher acquired in that trade, starter Kevin Hart, went 1-8 with a 6.92 ERA after coming to Pittsburgh.
Chicago is expected to make a strong push to keep Grabow with a multiyear contract, and the Cubs plan to have Gorzelanny compete with Jeff Samardzija for the fifth spot in their rotation in 2010.
Hart had been expected to make one more start in the season finale tomorrow, but that was scratched because of pain in his right rib cage, manager John Russell said yesterday. Hart initially felt the pain Tuesday in Chicago.
"We wanted Kevin to get back out there and have another chance, but there's no reason to do that with this," Russell said.
Jeff Karstens will make the start instead, pitching on three days' rest.
• Shortstop Ronny Cedeno, out with two strained hamstrings, probably will not play this weekend.
• Donnie Veal and other relievers could be used to back up Karstens.
• Ascanio is out of options, but that will not matter if placed on the 60-day disabled list again next year. The same was the case with Dumatrait this year.