Suddenly, trading Trayvon Robinson for filler might no longer be the worst thing that happened on Sunday afternoon.
Rookie right-hander Rubby De La Rosa faces the possibility of season-ending elbow surgery after an MRI exam on Monday revealed a sprained ulnar-collateral ligament. A team spokesman said De La Rosa and the medical staff presently are considering a handful of treatment options, one of which would be surgery.
Dodgers medical-services director Stan Conte said De La Rosa reported tightness in his elbow immediately after leaving the game, but that he initially had felt it while throwing a pitch in the third inning. De La Rosa saw team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended he undergo an MRI exam.
Oh, you just knew throwing 103 pitches in four innings wasn’t going to end well, right? I wasn’t watching the game all that closely – as you might remember, I was trying to figure out what the hell a “Tim Federowicz” was at the time – but clearly the results weren’t there, with four walks, two homers, and a wild pitch, and Don Mattingly is later quoted in Jackson’s article as saying his body language “looked different”.
I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure we can count the number of guys with serious arm injuries who have “considered other treatment options” and didn’t end up with surgery on one hand. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Carlos Monasterios just spent three months trying to rehab what was initially termed “elbow inflammation” before finally submitting to the knife last week.) And if you’re getting surgery on your ulnar collateral ligament, that is almost always Tommy John surgery, depending on the severity. Some will point out that de la Rosa reportedly has a “sprained” ligament and not a “torn” one, but that’s semantics: a sprain is a tear.
If de la Rosa does end up with Tommy John surgery – and again, that’s not confirmed, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it sounds overwhelmingly likely – the timing means that we won’t see him back in Dodger blue until late 2012 at the earliest, or more likely not until 2013. Considering everything else we’ve had to put up with this season and on the heels of Kenley Jansen‘s cardiac concerns, that seems like an unnecessary punch in the gut, but I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point.
I also imagine some will feel this vindicates Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to stay, as the Dodgers would be looking at a rotation that included both John Ely and Dana Eveland right now if Kuroda had been traded and then de la Rosa was injured. It’s an easy fallback, though I don’t really agree: 2011 was cooked a long time ago anyway, so it doesn’t really make much of a difference to me if they’re losing 3-1 games with Kuroda, or 6-1 games with Ely.
A few weeks ago, I looked at how far the club would let de la Rosa go, considering he was nearing his career high for innings pitched. At 100.2 combined this year, he didn’t even match 2010′s 110.1, though there’s evidence that MLB innings are more stressful than MiLB frames. Either way, I find it hard to blame the Dodgers for their handling of the young pitcher. He threw 100 pitches or more just three times, and only once did he go above 113; even on Sunday, he was still hitting the upper 90s and got six of the twelve outs he managed via strikeouts. Though we probably will never know for sure, the injury likely happened during de la Rosa’s tough outing on Sunday, and there wasn’t really anything that anyone could have done about it. Young pitchers get hurt, unfortunately. It happens.
The silver lining, if there is one, is that Tommy John surgery is nearly routine at this point, with an overwhelming success rate. Just to cherry-pick two recent examples from Washington, Jordan Zimmermann had his procedure in early August of 2009, returned to the bigs in late August of 2010, and has been one of the club’s best starters this year; Stephen Strasburg went under the knife in late August of 2010, and has reportedly been hitting 95 in bullpen sessions with a small chance that he sees MLB time in September. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s in no way the death of a career like it was for decades, or even the risky procedure it was up until the last 10 years or so.
Of course, it would have a huge impact on the 2012 Dodger rotation, which is already questionable at best behind Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. But that’s a question for another day. For now, let’s hope for the best for young Rubby De La Rosa.
Unrelated, but all of the trade deadline craziness on Sunday pushed July just past June as the month with the highest traffic in blog history, which means that the top two have come in the last two months. Thanks for reading, even despite all of the off-field garbage and on-field disappointment.