Is Ryan Really Ready?
Slipped into an article about the history of Tommy John surgery (did you know Arnsberg had it done back when they were still operating with rusty spoons?), Jordan Bastian’s article on B.J. Ryan takes what is clearly a direct shot at my blindly optimistic take on the subject:
Preparing Ryan to be ready in time for Toronto’s opener on March 31 is also going to be tricky due to the type of role he fills. A misconception is that it’s easier for relievers to return in less than a year from Tommy John surgery, because they don’t need to be able to withstand a high pitch count.
The reality is that the process can sometimes be more difficult for relievers, considering they have to be prepared to pitch on consecutive days or multiple times in a week.
That was indeed my misconception. But wait, there’s more:
Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan had Tommy John surgery in 2004 and needed 13 months to return to game action.
McGowan believes Ryan’s task is more daunting.
“I think it’s different for a reliever,” McGowan said. “I think it’s tougher for them, because he’s going to be expected to pitch two or three days in a row sometimes. It’s going to be rough on him.
Is it just me, or does it sound like he’s basing this new medical interpretation entirely on Dr. McGowan’s medical opinion? Because absolutely everything I’ve ever heard and every other (equally anecdotal, mind you) reference out there either refers directly to returning from the surgery being easier for relievers or just takes it as a given.
I don’t buy the argument that pitching multiple times in a week is harder- we already know that more starters need Tommy John surgery in the first place, so the strain on the UCL must be much greater (and if you’ve ever thrown 70+ pitches at one time that comes as no real surprise). If Bastian has some real info to illuminate our flawed reality with here, I wish he’d say where it’s coming from- and if it’s just Dustin blowing smoke and giving B.J. some extra credit, then say so.
Anyway, while clearly not recommended, the good news from a survey of the medical establishment is there doesn’t seem to be a huge risk of the career-ending injury from pushing the timetable a bit that Jays’ fans are (understandably) worried about. Players just get sore and inflamed and have to shut it down for a few months. On the other hand, guys who have been through it seem to make comments that are almost eerie concerning what Ryan is trying to do right now:
“It’s just a matter of not trying to do too much too soon,” Moehler said. “Early on, you are going to get to that 10- and 11-month period feeling really good. You are going to feel like you’re ready to go, and then all of a sudden, you are going to hit a wall. You are not going to be ready yet. I’ve seen it time and time in guys at 11 months trying to amp it up, and all of a sudden they hit a wall and a setback, and it’s another three or four months before they feel good again.”
Moehler was the same age as Ryan when he had his surgery…