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Isringhausen doesn't rule out '10 return

Isringhausen doesn't rule out '10 return

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Wearing a backwards cap and T-shirt in the clubhouse before Thursday's game, Rays reliever Jason Isringhausen's attire didn't give the gloomy vibe one might expect from a pitcher just days removed from surgery that might end his career.

The large cast on his right arm did, though.

Two days after Tommy John elbow ligament surgery to reconstruct his right elbow, Isringhausen was in the Rays' clubhouse for the first time and appeared in high spirits despite acknowledging that this -- the 10th surgery in his 14-year career -- may be his last.

"I'm used to surgery; it's not that big of a deal," Isringhausen said. "I'm used to coming back from them, so I'll just go about the rehab, and as rehab progresses, I'll realize whether or not I'll be able to do it again."

Isringhausen, who had reconstructive surgery on the same elbow in September, was pitching in relief for the Rays on June 13 when his arm gave way releasing a pitch. He immediately asked out of the game.

Isringhausen said before Thursday's 10-4 over the Phillies that he felt the elbow pop and knew immediately he was done for the season.

"I knew it was all gone," Isringhausen said.

The veteran reliever would have opted for surgery the following day, but his preferred doctor, Dr. George Paletta, was in Europe. Paletta, whom Isringhausen knew from his time in St. Louis, performed the surgery Tuesday.

Isringhausen, who is sixth among active players with 293 saves, said he could never know if the reconstructive surgery in September -- also performed by Paletta -- contributed to what happened recently.

"He fixed the tendon so I could pitch this year," Isringhausen said. "Who knows if that had anything to do with what happened. Now it's all fixed."

Isringhausen did seem confident that he would be able to rehabilitate the elbow and pitch again, if he decides he wants to. He said Paletta told him he may be able to throw harder if all things go as planned.

But that won't be until July 2010, and Isringhausen, 36, will decide before then if he wants to hang up his cleats. He was 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in nine appearances this season, but said he was just starting to rediscover his groove on the mound.

"That was the hardest thing," Isringhausen said, "because I'd just started getting back to where I wanted to be."

He spoke earlier this season about his goal of reaching 300 saves, a milestone only 20 pitchers have achieved. But Thursday, Isringhausen seemed OK with the notion that he may never pitch again.

"We'll see how the rehab goes, and if I want to come back," he said.

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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