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07/09/09 8:39 PM ET

Astros would pay if Backe needs surgery

Free-agent righty diagnosed with partial rotator-cuff tear

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Brandon Backe, who was released by the Astros in late June and became a free agent, has been diagnosed by team doctors with a partial thickness tear of his right rotator cuff and will seek a second opinion on his shoulder.

The diagnosis was made by Astros team medical director Dr. David Lintner, and Backe will seek a second opinion Monday in Birmingham, Ala., from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. The Astros would have to pay for any surgical procedures as long as Backe remains a free agent.

Backe, 31, began the 2009 season on the disabled with a strained left intercostal muscle, an injury he sustained during a Spring Training start on March 8 against Pittsburgh. Backe was reinstated from the DL on May 28 and made five appearances for the Astros with one start, posting a 0-0 record with a 10.38 ERA.

Backe was designated for assignment after allowing 15 runs and 21 hits in 13 innings (one start) for the Astros this year. He's 31-29 lifetime with a 5.23 career ERA but endeared himself to Astros fans by coming up with big starts in the playoffs in 2004 and 2005.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.