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Capuano visits teammates in Arizona

Capuano visits teammates

PHOENIX -- Chris Capuano, on the disabled list and nearly two months removed from his second Tommy John left elbow reconstructive surgery, has not thrown a baseball for seven weeks and will not for at least seven more.

But he still envisions pitching for the Brewers next season.

"I'm shooting for April 1, to be pitching somewhere," Capuano said Monday, when he visited his Brewers teammates at Chase Field before the start of their four-game series against the Diamondbacks. "In my mind, I'm expecting to probably start the year in Triple-A, and ... hopefully get back up soon."

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A lot of things will have to work out in Capuano's favor for the starter to get his wish. He is working out at Maryvale Baseball Park in west Phoenix with physical therapist Kenny Paterson on the same four-days-on, one-day-off schedule as the Arizona Rookie Leaguers. Capuano is on schedule, but for now that means shoulder and forearm strengthening drills. He will not begin throwing until late August or early September.

Then there are the contractual hurdles. Capuano has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining, meaning the Brewers, should they decide to tender him a contract before the Dec. 12 deadline, could not cut his 2009 salary by more than 20 percent. Under that scenario, Capuano would cost the team at least $2.8125 million next season, an expense the Brewers might not be willing to pay, considering the low number of pitchers who have undergone a successful second elbow reconstruction.

The team could get around that sticking point, according to assistant general manager Gord Ash, by outrighting Capuano and making him a free agent. He would then be free to sign a new deal with the Brewers -- or with any other club.

"The good thing here is that you can monitor his progress and make a decision at a later point," Ash said.

Capuano says he has no second thoughts about the cautious approach he took after suffering a partial tear to the tendon in his left elbow that had served as his ligament since his first reconstructive surgery in 2002. It happened on March 17 in a Spring Training start against Seattle, and the Brewers' head physician recommended surgery. After conferring with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., Capuano opted for rest and rehab.

Things progressed well for several weeks, until the day Capuano stepped on a mound for the first time.

"The whole reason that we did give it a shot [to avoid surgery] was that I had some time to play with," Capuano said. "I wanted to have a firm decision by mid-May about what I was going to do."

He underwent surgery on May 15, in which Andrews took a piece of muscle from the inside of Capuano's right leg and installed it into his elbow, side-by-side with the existing graft.

"The fact that I've gone through it before [helps]," Capuano said. "I kept pretty meticulous notes on my rehab, so it's nice to compare to the successful rehab I had before. ... And Dr. Andrews was pretty happy with how it went, and that gave me a lot of confidence."

Capuano got engaged since he last pitched for the Brewers and will marry a former Duke University classmate in November.

He's been watching a lot of baseball, and plans to make a cut fastball a more important part of his repertoire once he begins throwing again. There is not much else to do besides thinking about the game when the temperature hovers above 100 degrees in Phoenix well after sundown.

"It's a little tough," he said. "I'm not used to being here during the summer. I'm used to being with the guys."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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