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Tommy John Surgery Extends Fantasy Baseball Careers

There once was a time when a torn UCL marked an immediate Tommy Johnmove to the broadcast booth.  No longer.

Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine and Dr. Frank Jobe, who first performed the surgery on Tommy John in 1974, many pitchers come back even stronger than ever after the surgery.  John sat out the 1975 season following his surgery, which at the time had a “1% chance of working,” then returned in 1976 and pitched through age 46 into the 1989 season.

 Westbrook Goes South

The Indians’ Jake Westbrook was having a fine season (1-2, 3.12, 5 Westbrook out of fantasy baseball with Tommy John surgerystarts) before complaining of elbow soreness following his May 28 start.  The decision to have season ending Tommy John surgery was made on June 7.  Westbrook is in the second year of a three year $33 million deal he signed with The Tribe. 

100% Chance of Sowers

Westbrook will be replaced in the Cleveland starting rotation by ex-Jeremy Sowers in MLB fantasy baseball rotationVanderbilt left-hander Jeremy Sowers who was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo.  Sowers was up with the Indians earlier this season and he holds an 8-11 lifetime mark with a 4.98 ERA in 30 starts.  He should be considered for your fantasy baseball lineup only in larger fantasy baseball leagues and only when the proper matchups are in place.

 Tommy John Surgery Growing

Tommy John surgery has become as commonplace in the major leagues as a hard slider.  It is estimated that over 75 pitchers, or one in nine, on active MLB rosters today have had the surgery.  Ex-Reds pitcher Jose Rio had it three times!

The surgery is required from fatigue placed on the pitching elbow.  In the surgery, the ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon obtained from the patient’s forearm, hamstring, knee, or foot.  The entire process takes only an hour.

See How Tommy John Surgery is done.

While many professionals get the surgery, there is an increasing number of surgeries being performed on high school pitchers and even younger youth pitchers due to overuse of the arm caused by overuse.  Many blame this phenomenon on the rise of travel leagues, but I’d suggest it is due to coaches not properly resting their pitchers.

Recovery takes time.  Patients are able to lift light weights two months after the surgery and can start rebuilding the elbow with heavier weights after four months.  Usually, pitchers are back on the mound in a year.  This means that Jake Westbrook likely won’t return until July, 2009 so don’t expect him to start the season next year with the Indians.

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