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There’s an experimental alternative to Tommy John surgery

Thursday’s Say Hey, Baseball includes Seth Maness as a modern Tommy John, Pablo Sandoval’s transformation, and the Mariners’ busy day.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Listen, we know it’s tough to catch up on everything happening in the baseball world each morning. There are all kinds of stories, rumors, game coverage and Vines of dudes getting hit in the beans every day. Trying to find all of it while on your way to work or sitting at your desk just isn’t easy. It’s OK, though. We’re going to do the heavy lifting for you each morning and find the things you need to see from within the SB Nation baseball network, as well as from elsewhere. Please hold your applause until the end, or at least until after you subscribe to the newsletter.

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Tommy John surgery has been refined and perfected to the point where some recipients can be back in a year or a little less like nothing ever happened to them. A year is still a long time, though, and there are still many cases where a TJ procedure near the end of a season means a player will miss the entire next campaign, too. That could change, at least for some players, if Seth Maness manages to prove the effectiveness of a new surgery.

The procedure Maness underwent in August is called "primary repair," but if it takes and becomes a staple in MLB, maybe it’ll be renamed after its first established recipient. Even though he underwent this elbow procedure on August 18, he’s expected to be ready by Opening Day — just seven-and-a-half months after surgery. The difference between primary repair and TJ is that TJ is a complete reconstruction of the elbow ligament and surrounding area: primary repair is, as the name suggests, a "repair and buttressing" of the existing ligament. It’s such a new procedure that MLB is using the same medical code for Maness that they would for a TJ recipient, so teams are operating under the assumption he’ll be out for a significant chunk of 2017 when he could very well be pitching on Opening Day — if only someone would sign him.

The average recovery time for the surgeries performed so far is six-and-a-half months, roughly half the recovery time of Tommy John. Of the 50 surgeries performed, none of them have resulted in the need for a later TJ in order to fix what primary repair could not. It should be stressed that this isn’t going to be the surgery for everyone, but there are likely going to be cases where the tear is such that Tommy John isn’t needed, and primary repair can do the trick instead. It should be a middle ground between a PRP injection and full-blown TJ, and that means more pitchers missing less time.

You should read the full breakdown of the procedure and when it could be done, because it very well could be a major part of the future of surgery in baseball.