Contreras needs season-ending surgery

Jose Contreras will need season-ending surgery on his elbow. (Michael Bryant/Staff File Photo)

Jose Contreras will require "exploratory" elbow surgery that will end his season. The Phillies are optimistic the righthander will be ready for spring training in 2012.

Contreras, 39, has experienced elbow problems since late April. After his most recent setback, team physician Michael Ciccotti recommended surgery.

Both Contreras and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. do not believe there is ligament damage. Amaro said there could be a bone chip or spur in the elbow, but also tendon or muscle problems. The surgery, performed in the coming days by Lewis Yocum, will determine the cause.

"Nobody knows," Contreras said.

If it is a tendon problem, which Amaro speculated, surgery could sideline Contreras for four to six months.

Contreras is the only Phillies reliever already under contract for 2012. He is owed $2.5 million next season. The Phillies also hold a 2013 club option.

He'll end his season with only 17 appearances and a 3.86 ERA. He entered the season as the team's closer after a spectacular year as the setup man in 2010.

"It's a blow for us," Amaro said. "We were hopeful to have him come back and pitch at the back end. He's done a great job for us when healthy. That hurts."

Contreras doesn't need to be told that.

"It's really disappointing," he said. "I've been working hard for months to come back. It's disappointing."

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