According to a Mets team official, Billy Wagner was examined Monday in New York and diagnosed with a tear of his flexor pronator and MCL in his left elbow. The left-handed reliever will require ligament replacement surgery, often known as Tommy John, which is expected to be performed sometime this week.
"If all goes well, he'll be able to pitch in about a year's time, following the surgery," said Mets general manager Omar Minaya in a Monday conference call.
Wagner was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 5, retroactively to Aug. 3, initially due to forearm stiffness. According to Minaya, an Aug. 4 MRI showed a ligament tear, but the Mets hoped he could pitch through it.
"There are a lot of guys that pitch through tears," said Minaya. "The question is how these tears hold up. Each case is different.
"We didn't know at that time that he was going to need surgery. Surgery was always a possibility if things didn't get better, and we're at the point now where things are not getting better."
Wagner felt pain and discomfort again in the elbow during a simulated game at Shea Stadium on Sunday.
The injury could mean that Wagner has pitched his last game for the Mets. The team signed Wagner to a four-year, $43 million contract before the 2006 season. The club holds a $10 million option on his contract for 2010.
Since joining the Mets in 2006, Wagner has saved 101 games. He finished sixth in Cy Young Award voting in his first season with the team and represented the Mets in the All-Star Games in 2007 and 2008.
With Wagner unavailable, Mets manager Jerry Manuel has used an assortment of relievers in the closer role. Recently, Manuel has used Luis Ayala, a midseason pickup from the Washington Nationals, to finish tight games. Ayala has five saves in six opportunities since joining the Mets and has posted a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings with the team.
"The bullpen works as a unit and doesn't depend on one guy," said Minaya. "Jerry's going to continue to preach 'team' and 'us.' It's about the team; it's not about the individual. Baseball's not about one guy. It's about a team and the concept of togetherness."
Minaya stressed that his team will consider options inside and outside the organization to replace Wagner beyond 2008.
"I think we have somebody that can jump in," he said. "But we're going to look internally and we're going to look externally. I have a lot of confidence in our scouts and I'm sure they can find the right guy."