HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell completed the first hurdle in his quest to return to the playing field on Tuesday when he underwent successful capsular release surgery on his right shoulder in Spartansburg, S.C.

In addition to the procedure, several small bone chips were also removed from the area. The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Hawkins of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic, and Astros team medical director Dr. Lintner assisted with the operation.

General manager Tim Purpura said the doctors did not anticipate the presence of loose bone chips, but other than that, the one-hour, 10-minute procedure went as expected.

"His range of motion after the surgery was pretty good," Purpura said. "They test him while he's still asleep. He has good range of motion, and the doctors were pleased with the procedure. They felt like this certainly has a chance to help.

"His arthritis is significant, though. There's very little cartilage, if any, left in that shoulder, which is what we thought. It confirmed what was the pre-operative diagnosis of what he had. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

The capsular release procedure loosened the tendons surrounding Bagwell's degenerative shoulder, and if all goes well, Bagwell should be able to play with significantly less pain than he has suffered over the last three years, ever since his 2001 surgery to repair a torn labrum in the shoulder.

To explain exactly what the procedure entailed, Purpura referred to Dr. Lintner's comparison of a capsular release to cutting a pie crust. Just as one would make slits in the crust to ventilate the pie, the capsular release procedure cuts away the tendons surrounding the shoulder, thus giving the shoulder more room to move.

After a three-month recovery period, Bagwell will be cleared to begin baseball-related activities. The chances of him being able to make a successful return to the field range from 15 to 50 percent.

Purpura feels Bagwell has a decent chance to actually play before the conclusion of the 2005 regular season.

"If anything, the fact that he's got pretty good range of motion while he was sedated, that at least leads you to believe the shoulder has better range of motion than it had before," Purpura said.

Asked about Bagwell's spirits heading into this surgery, Purpura reiterated Bagwell's earlier statements about his anxiousness to find out once and for all what his future holds.

"He was eager to get it over with," Purpura said. "Since this decision has been made, we've seen a lot more of Jeff's true personality. He's trying to enjoy himself again. He's got some hope. He was eager to get the procedure over with, because he's got that hope that this will help him."

After the procedure, Bagwell spoke briefly via telephone with teammates Craig Biggio and Brad Ausmus, who are with the team in New York.

"He was a little groggy," Biggio said. "But anyone who comes out of surgery and has an IV hooked into their arm is going to be like that. He said things went real well and that's the most important thing."