As first reported by Jack Magruder, Patrick Corbin will have Tommy John surgery to replace his UCL today. It'll be performed by specialist Dr. James Andrews, and the typical recovery time is expected. That means Corbin is lost to the Diamondbacks for the entire 2013 season - and, as we've seen with Daniel Hudson, recovery even then is not certain. The best-case scenario would be having Corbin back in time for Opening Day in 2015, but it could be some time beyond that before he returns to full effectiveness. See Adam Wainwright, who missed the entire 2011 season, and had an ERA near five over his first dozen starts back, before improving thereafter.
While hardly unexpected news, for the Diamondbacks, it means finding a full-time replacement for Corbin, with the (remote) possibility of rehab and a return in couple of months now firmly out the window. The most likely course appears to be the promotion of Randall Delgado back from the bullpen, given Archie Bradley still seems to be struggling with his control and would probably benefit from some light waxing and buffing in Reno. Given Delgado was only in the bullpen due to a lack of minor-league options, that would also help unblock things there, and likely means we go into the American Opening Day with Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez as left-handed relievers.
Update. There now seems to be some question over whether or not this is indeed the case:
Contrary to reports, #Dbacks starter Patrick Corbin does not have Tommy John surgery scheduled for today.— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) March 24, 2014
Hmm. Guess we'll wait for confirmation either way.
Update 2. Yep, looks like reports of the demise of Corbin's UCL were slightly premature.
CORRECTION, and my apologies: #Dbacks Corbin has only a consult with Dr. James Andrews today. No decision has been made on the next step.— Jack Magruder (@JackMagruder) March 24, 2014
Update 3. It finally happened Tuesday morning. For sure and definite. :)
#Dbacks Patrick Corbin had Tommy John surgery performed today by Dr. James Andrews.— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) March 25, 2014
There definitely does appear to be an epidemic of Tommy John around baseball this year: while we were down in Australia, Tigers' set-up man Bruce Rondon joined the long list of pitchers (Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, Jarod Parker, Luke Hochevar, Cory Luebke) to have had or be looking at the operative procedure. Is it a result of the higher velocity pitchers throw at today? Increased slider use? There are any number of theories. I tend to the thought that the surgery has become so routine, that it's now used as the first resort for a torn ligament, rather than the last. Counter what Nolan Ryan said about his elbow:
In September of 1988 with Houston, he began experiencing pain in his elbow and paid a visit to Jobe in Los Angeles, who advised him to shut it down for the last couple of weeks of the season and resume throwing in December. "There was a partial tear there," he said. "It still hurt in December, but when I got to spring training, the pain began to dissipate until it was gone. Dr. Jobe said it had scarred over and that helped protect the elbow. I pitched with that tear the rest of my career." Ryan had two more 200-inning seasons and led the NL in strikeouts with 301 in ‘89 and 232 in ‘90.
Got to feel for Corbin, and wish him all the best as he recovers from the process. Hopefully, he'll be one of the successes, coming back strong and helping the Diamondbacks in 2015.