In a distressing update to yesterday's distressing update, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution it appears that star Braves pitcher Kris Medlen will indeed need to have a surgery on his ulnar collateral ligament, a procedure commonly known as Tommy John surgery, following his abrupt exit in a spring training game a few days ago.
While it was reported yesterday that the team's ace would be seeing Dr. James Andrews to offer a second opinion to the pitcher, it's unclear if that's happened. What is clear is that the organization was worried about the worst case scenario, with general manager Frank Wren telling reporters that the injury had "Involvement with the ligament" at the time.
Medlen seems resigned to his fate, telling the AJC, "he knows what's coming, nothing official yet but he has accepted that he's almost certainly going to need TJ surgery" according to a tweet from the paper's David O'Brien.
No longer the career ender it once was, if surgery goes from "likely" to definite, Medlen will still miss over a year following the procedure.
The news this morning that the Braves had signed Ervin Santana to a one-year deal worth $14.1 million dollars has likely helped the transition, as the detached aura of yesterday's statements seem to have been replaced by somber realization. Which makes sense, as it appears that Medlen several days to process the idea he was going to lose another season to elbow surgery. According to a tweet from MLB.com's Mark Bowman, Medlen told reporters "he knew he needed Tommy John when he threw his final pitch Sunday. Tuesday's stress X-ray indicated the same."
With pitchers Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor also working through various injuries, a loss like this would have doomed the Braves to a stumble out of the gates. But with the signing of Santana, the team has given itself a short-term solution for what will hopefully be a short-term problem. And on the bright side for Medlen, unlike fellow Tommy John candidate Luke Hochevar, he has one more full year to rebound from injury before free agency.
The Braves are used to the process, having seen players like John Smoltz and Tim Hudson as well as Medlen himself (obviously) come back from the procedures to pitch dominantly. Though this must be juxtaposed with the notion that while many players have come back from one successful surgery, the hill getting back from a second one is much steeper. Older pitchers like Bret Saberhagen have been able to turn from elite starters into serviceable set up men on mediorce teams.
But the only other notable name to pitch even remotely at the same level after a second surgery has been former Giants closer and current Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson. After pitching in twelve games late last season, as well a handful of shutdown appearances in the playoffs, Wilson was rewarded with a 1-year, $10 million dollar offer that included a player option after the season. Wouldn't it be nice if Medlen could find the same success coming back, or grow a beard like that.