Gout in elbow causes Pirates' Russell to have surgery
Pirates manager John Russell, seen here watching his team take batting practice before a mid-March spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Bradenton, Fla.
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CINCINNATI -- After 16 losing seasons and a bunch of unsuccessful five-year plans it has come to this for the Pirates:
They're going to try to win games with a manager using just one arm.
John Russell had a hastily scheduled surgery yesterday and emerged requiring the use of a brace that will immobilize his unbent left arm for 10 days or so.
Or merely a temporary sign that the left-handers in the Pirates' bullpen can relax until bench coach Gary Varsho or pitching coach Joe Kerrigan take a walk to the mound as some sort of pinch-signaler?
"It was to the point of no return with it, so we had to go in there and clean it out," Russell said of his gout-ridden left elbow yesterday, shortly after surgery and before the Pirates-Cincinnati Reds game was postponed because of rain. "It had been really hurting. I was very uncomfortable. We knew we had to do something. We were trying to get back to Pittsburgh [next week for surgery]. Went ahead and cleaned it out."
Russell, 48, a former major league catcher, has suffered before from gout -- a painful form of arthritis in which too much uric acid builds up inside parts of the body.
"Usually, it goes away. This one wouldn't," said Russell, who has been afflicted previously in the knees and feet, but never to this extent and never in an arm. "It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Looked like I had a baseball in my elbow.
"Had to do something."
The way Russell described it, Cincinnati Bengals team physician Dr. Angelo Colosimo did the procedure at the University of Cincinnati's Holmes Hospital. He cleaned out gout around the bursa sac and attached to bone around the elbow. He washed the infected area with an antibiotic. And he sewed him up.
He must wear a brace for 10 days without bending the arm, meaning it must protrude stiffly from his side.
"Anything to get rid of what I had," Russell added. "It wasn't very fun. I couldn't bend my arm. But it's good now. I'm thankful I got it done."
Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Eric Hinske, Phil Dumatrait, Evan Meek and non-roster invitee Andy Phillips are among the players who missed significant chunks of time in Florida because of injuries and illness. And Andy along with big brother Adam LaRoche plus pitcher Ian Snell were among those affected by recent viruses making the clubhouse rounds.
"Adam was sick [Thursday]," Russell explained of that absence in St. Louis. "And for him not to play, he's got to be pretty sick. ... Adam got a delayed edition of it.
"It was two different kinds [of flu]. Some guys got it where it knocked them down for six, seven days. Some guys got it where it was 24 to 48 hours."
Snell maintained that it took him two weeks until he just now has regained his strength, just now started keeping down meals: "That's the sickest I've ever been in my life."
Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1:10 p.m., Great American Ball Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (9-14, 4.81 last year)
Key matchup: Cueto is coming off a promising rookie year, but Freddy Sanchez had three hits off him in six at-bats last season.
Of note: The Pirates had a winning record against the Reds last season, both in Cincinnati (5-4) and at home (4-2).
First Published April 11, 2009 12:00 am