Cincinnati Reds reliever Tejay Antone will be undergoing Tommy John surgery tomorrow. Antone announced this on twitter on Thursday morning.
Tommy John surgery is never good news for anyone. But for Tejay Antone it’s really not good news. The right-handed reliever has already had one Tommy John surgery in his career. He missed all of the 2017 season and about half of the 2018 season as he recovered from the injury and surgery while he was in the minor leagues.
Yesterday the team placed Antone on the injured list after he left Tuesday night’s game after just five pitches. The initial announcement was that he had a strained right flexor muscle in his forearm. At the time we wrote that was not great news, but that the designation of a strain was a glimmer of hope because strain signifies a muscle or a tendon rather an a ligament, which would be the UCL, and given Antone’s previous Tommy John surgery, a torn UCL would seem to be the worst outcome of the injuries that could have been on the table. Unfortunately it seems like that designation was merely a place holder until there was further evaluation.
While we’ve come a long way with how pitchers recover from Tommy John surgery – 30+ years ago it was a situation that would leave one questioning if the player would ever return to normal – the players who have had a second Tommy John surgery and recovered well is not great. In November Kevin Acee of the San Diego Tribune wrote that at the time 42 Major League pitchers have had a second Tommy John surgery and that the majority did not pitch in the Major Leagues again or fared poorly over a short period of time. He, however, did note that many of the pitchers were also “well into their 30’s at the time of their second surgery”.
Acee spoke with Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, who is an orthopedic surgeon, who had this to say about why a second Tommy John surgery isn’t quite like the first one.
On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said Tuesday. “… The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.
There are some pitchers who have returned and been successful from a second Tommy John surgery. Nathan Eovaldi has now pitched four seasons since returning from his second surgery and he’s having an outstanding season in Boston through 25 starts.
It’s working for Antone that he is younger than most second Tommy John recipients. But it’s going to be a tough road back given the track record. Given the timing of the injury, the earliest to expect to see him back on the mound for the Reds is going to be the 2023 season.