By Drew Olson Special to Published Mar 23, 2008 at 2:46 PM

PHOENIX -- Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano left the mound last Monday afternoon with a twinge of pain in his left elbow.

Now, it may be another year before he pitches in a game.

Capuano was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, an injury that will more than likely require surgery and a rehab period of nine months to a year.

Capuano already underwent "Tommy John" reconstructive surgery when he suffered a similar injury in 2002. The surgeon who performed that procedure, noted sports orthopedist James Andrews, will review the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results this week.

There is a slim chance that Capuano will attempt to rehab the injury without undergoing surgery. If unsuccessful, that process -- which could take three months -- would extend his recovery time when he does have surgery.

"It's very daunting to think about going through a rehab," said Capuano, who spent the off-season recovering from surgery on his non-throwing (right) shoulder.

"At this point, we're kind of weighing our options and figuring out if I rehab it, what are the chances of coming back and performing at this level? If those chances are less than 25 percent, I think there is no doubt that I can come back from surgery to 100 percent. It will take about a year or so. I've got to kind of crunch the numbers and weigh the decision."

Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said that the initial MRI revealed a tear and that team doctor William Raasch agreed.

"Chris is weighing his options as is the club at this time for where we go next, medically," Ash said. "There is a very small chance you could elect to rehab. That percentage is probably less than 20 percent successful. Dr. Raasch is recommending surgery."

Capuano was injured Monday in a split-squad game against the Mariners. After giving up a home run to former Brewers first baseman Richie Sexson, for whom he once was traded, Capuano felt pain after pitching to the next batter, Vladimir Balentien.

"The first time I did it (in 2002), was a real pain that shot down my arm," Capuano said. "The next pitch I tried to throw went straight into the ground. This time, it was one pitch right about the same point of release that I felt a little bite.

"Every time they do these surgeries, they move your ulnar nerve which could be a reason you don't feel as much pain.

"When I had tendonitis in '04 and had to go on the DL (disabled list), it was the same kind of pain. The fact that it happened on one pitch worried me a lot. I'd given up the home run to Sexson. I tried to throw about six more pitches after that. I was just trying to throw some two-seamers to see ‘Did I just maybe hit my funny bone and it's going to go away?'"

Capuano, who was competing for a spot in the starting rotation, was 1-1 with a 9.00 earned run average. In 11 innings, he allowed 21 hits and 11 earned runs. After making the National League all-star team in 2006, Capuano went 5-12 with a 5.10 ERA last season.

If he decides to undergo surgery, Capuano expects to have the procedure very soon. Because he's been through the procedure before, he knows what's ahead.

"I can say I know for a fact that I can come back to 100 percent which is the key when you go throw any rehab - 100 percent believing that you're going to be better or stronger than you were before you have surgery," he said.

"If you don't fully commit fully to that idea, you're not going to heal as well, I don't think. Just the notion of time itself and just the disappointment because I worked so hard to get this (right arm) feeling good and the left arm felt so good, it's just disappointing."

Capuano, who owns a condominium on the East Side, expects to spend most of his rehab time in Arizona.

"It wouldn't be practical to be in Milwaukee," he said. "I don't want to take up the team's time when they have people who are actually contributing and playing. And, if I'm not there to compete. You're not part of it, you really don't want to be there. Bottom line. You don't want to be like a negative influence on the team like that."

Asked if he would accompany the team to Chicago and Milwaukee for opening day ceremonies, Capuano said: "That's the farthest thing from my mind. The team has to focus on winning games. I have to focus on getting myself better.

"It's not fun watching guys do something as simple as go out to play catch. You're an outsider immediately. You're not part of that group anymore. That's the part that's hard to deal with; you miss being with your team and all that stuff."

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.