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03/03/08 7:57 PM ET

Lopes to undergo cancer surgery

First-base coach will be away from team for at least six weeks

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Amid the sun and palm trees, distressing news lurked when the Phillies announced Monday that first-base coach Davey Lopes will undergo prostate cancer surgery later this month.

The 62-year-old Lopes will be away from the team for at least six weeks while he recovers. The surgery will take place at Morton Plant Hospital in New Port Richey, Fla..

"What Davey has is very serious, but the doctor feels like everything is going to be fine," said manager Charlie Manuel, who overcame cancer that cost him a kidney in 2000, and other medical conditions. "Everything is going to work out for him. He's just going to miss some time. We look forward to him coming back."

Jerry Martin will coach first while Lopes makes what is expected to be a full recovery. Martin played in the Major Leagues from 1979-84 and has served as the team's base-running coordinator since 2004.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Martin said. "Everybody in this clubhouse hopes he gets through this nice and easy. It's not a good situation for me in that regard, but at the same time, I'm happy to come up here and try to fill in until he gets back. The bottom line is we're all pulling for him to get through this thing real quick and get back."

Lopes' on-field influence was felt strongly last season, when the Phillies had the best stolen base percentage (87.9 percent) in the National League. The team's 138 swipes last season against 19 caught was the best in baseball history. Individually, he helped turn Shane Victorino into one of the game's best thieves.

"He was a big reason why we were able to manufacture runs and steal bases," Manuel said. "He gave our guys confidence by seeing things they couldn't see. A lot of times he just told them to go."

And they went.

The cancer was detected during an exam conducted at the beginning of Spring Training, just as it was for longtime coach Sal Rende, who had the procedure in 2005. The news that Lopes -- who hasn't coached first at all this spring -- left a cloud over what had been a loose camp.

Phillies staffers couldn't help but recall a year ago this Saturday, when John Vukovich lost his battle with brain cancer, a devastating moment for the organization, or March 12, 2003, when Tug McGraw was hospitalized in with a brain tumor that took his life 10 months later.

Lopes will overcome.

"It's unfortunate, but fortunate," said an emotional Jamie Moyer, who works with cancer patients and their families through his charitable work at Camp Erin. "It's fortunate that we do physicals, and early enough to catch something like that. And it's unfortunate that he has prostate cancer."

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Moyer knows the key is early detection.

"Hopefully, it was caught in time," he said. "It sounds like it was detected early, they'll knock it out and life will go on. You tip your hat to the medical staff, to the organization that has the physicals. Obviously, it could turn into something far worse if they didn't catch it. Hopefully, they caught it in time. Hopefully, it can be a positive story."

Major League Baseball has long supported an initiative that promotes testing for prostate cancer and pledging in the Prostate Cancer Foundation's Home Run Challenge. A yearly drive takes place around Father's Day as part of that initiative to help raise awareness of the risk and help beat the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in America, having struck 232,000 men in 2005 and 218,000 last year. The number of new diagnosed cases is expected to surge to more than 300,000 each year by 2015. A man's odds of being diagnosed with prostate cancer are one in six, and men are 35 percent more likely to get prostate cancer than a women is of having breast cancer.

"It's a scary thing," said Geoff Jenkins, who played with the Brewers when Lopes managed there. "When you hear something like that, you're crushed. But looking at the positive, they can fix this, and they detected it early. Hopefully, we can get him back soon. In this game, you almost feel like you're untouchable. Something like this happens and it makes your realize how good you have it. I love Davey and just want a safe surgery and safe recovery."

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