Capuano suffers setback in comeback

Capuano suffers setback in comeback

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rehabbing Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano conceded Tuesday that his latest setback probably means he won't be ready for the start of the Minor League season. But he's not giving up his bid to return from the second Tommy John elbow surgery of his career.

Capuano developed what he called "tightness" in his left elbow after pitching against the Reds on Thursday and was shut down by the club's medical staff after playing catch on Monday. He plans to rest for two or three days before starting over on flat ground.

"Usually I'm a little sore the next couple of days and then it goes away. This time, it kind of lingered on me," Capuano said after receiving treatment at Maryvale Baseball Park. "Rather than push through it, they decided to shut it down for a few days and let it calm down.

"It's disappointing because I felt so good for the first three or four weeks of camp. It's definitely disappointing. But in the long run, I'm way ahead of where I was last year and I think it's probably smart not to push through something right now.

"If it gets pushed back a week or two weeks wherever I start my season, it's not that big a deal to me in the long run. I just hope it's [not longer than] that."

Head team physician William Raasch examined Capuano over the weekend. There are no plans to send the pitcher for further tests.

Capuano surrendered two runs on three hits, including a Joey Votto home run, in his most recent Cactus League outing against the Reds. That outing came five days after he pitched two scoreless innings against the Giants, his first appearance in a Major League game -- albeit an exhibition -- since he re-injured his elbow in a spring game against the Mariners on March 17, 2008.

Two months later, Capuano succumbed to the second Tommy John surgery of his career. He also had the procedure in 2002, when he was a D-backs prospect.

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"I just think the volume of throwing every day, my body said, 'Slow down,'" Capuano said.

So that's what he will do. Brewers manager Ken Macha spoke with Capuano on Tuesday morning and offered encouragement.

"The outings he has had, he has thrown the ball well enough to get Major League hitters out," Macha said. "I don't want to get Biblical, but I kind of mentioned to him that in order to get to the Promised Land you have to get through the desert. He's been in the desert a long time.

"He can still get there. He certainly has the desire to do that. That's one person I have a lot of admiration for, what he's done."

Capuano, 31, came to Milwaukee from Arizona in the December 2003 Richie Sexson trade and won 18 games for the Brewers in 2005 and made the National League All-Star team in 2006.

The list of pitchers who have made it back to the Majors after multiple Tommy John surgeries is short, but it can be done. Reliever Chad Fox, a former Brewer, had three such procedures before calling it a career.

"There are a lot of ways to stay positive," Capuano said. "I look at Randy Wolf, who a couple of years ago was my age coming off some injuries. I look at how he bounced back from that and where he is now to try to stay positive and keep going."

He will keep going, for now, as a starting pitcher.

"I really haven't spoken to management or anybody else about considering a different role," Capuano said. "I always wanted to come back as a starter and see if my body can handle that first."

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