The news from Cincinnati hasn’t been great for the Reds in the last 24 hours when it comes to off-the-field stuff. Right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn, who has missed the entire year with a shoulder injury, will now have shoulder surgery to repair the anterior capsule – first reported by Mark Sheldon of

Justin Dunn’s shoulder has been a mystery wrapped up in a bigger mystery for the better part of the last two years. While still in the Seattle Mariners organization, Dunn went on the injured list in the middle of 2021 with a shoulder injury. He missed the next few months before beginning a rehab stint in Triple-A. He walked the only batter he faced on that rehab assignment before being pulled from the game and then being shut down.

Cincinnati then traded for Dunn the next spring in the deal that brought over Jake Fraley, Brandon Williamson, and prospect Connor Phillips. But Dunn was not going to be ready in time for spring training in 2022. Then we found out he was going to miss several months while still recovering from his shoulder injury. He began a rehab assignment in the final week of June and then spend the next five weeks in the minor leagues before returning to big leagues. He would make seven starts for the Reds between August and September before he was placed on the injured list with what they called right shoulder tightness. Two weeks later he made a rehab start in Louisville and pitched three innings, but it was also the final week of the season and he didn’t pitch again after that.

Fast forward to this past spring and once again Dunn was not going to be ready to pitch. And in early March we found out that he was going to miss at least a few months to rest his shoulder. Three weeks ago he began a rehab assignment out in Arizona and pitched 1.0 and 1.1 innings in two appearances before being sent to Triple-A to continue his rehab. On August 22nd he threw an inning for Louisville. Following that outing he was called back from his rehab assignment and shut down.

For the last two-and-a-half seasons Justin Dunn’s battled shoulder issues. It’s crossed over through two different organizations and for much of that time they both tried rest and rehab options, and for a short period of time in 2022 he was able to get back on the mound and pitch before there were more (or the same) issues that popped up.

At this point we don’t have many details about what exactly took place. It seems unfathomable that two different organizations didn’t have his anterior capsule checked out over the span of multiple years with his shoulder issues, so it’s possible that this is a new injury – perhaps due to the other lingering shoulder issues that caused more stress or something here. We may never know exactly what happened and how it all played out. Shoulders are still a lot more complicated than elbows when it comes to both diagnosing and correcting problems. Hopefully for Dunn this is going to be what fixes his issues and can ultimately get him back on the mound without further problems.

25 Responses

  1. CI3J

    I said he should have had surgery last year. It was obvious rehabbing wasn’t working.

    How is it I, some rando with zero real medical knowledge and even less “insider” knowledge, could correctly make that call while the Reds’ medical staff could not?

    • greenmtred

      Possibly because neither result was a foregone conclusion and the the rehab-only strategy had far more upside.

      • CI3J

        The guy had been rehabbing for a year and wasn’t getting any better. How is that not a a foregone conclusion that he should have had surgery?

        More to the point, how did they not figure out halfway through Year 2 of rehab that he needed surgery?

      • greenmtred

        I’m not a doctor, either, but I’ve had plenty of orthopedic surgeries, and a year of rehab does not seem excessive, especially considering the rigors the shoulder of a MLB pitcher will be subjected to. Alternatively, of course, one could choose to assume that the Reds’ team doctors are utterly incompetent and know less than a fan does.

      • CI3J

        Alternatively, of course, one could choose to assume that the Reds’ team doctors are utterly incompetent and know less than a fan does.

        The does seem to be the case.

      • greenmtred

        Perhaps. But things are rarely what they seem.

    • Doc

      Because a guess is 50:50. You lucked out. Did you declare in your guess that he had an anterior shoulder capsule problem?

  2. Laredo Slider

    Dunn seems to be snake bit. Reminds me of a Reds pitcher several years ago named John Roper. Both with nice potential but couldn’t stay healthy. Good luck to him.

  3. MK

    There are times when the player chooses the non-surgical rehab route rather than surgery. Obviously we don’t know but maybe this is the case here.

    • Fred Johnson

      Agreed. The player has to agree on the course of treatment and it seems likely he said ” Nah baba nah “. We also really have no idea what a surgery might entail and as much as I’m sure he wants to keep playing the man will have a life after this. I’d love to see him back but let’s cut him and the Reds some slack.

  4. Optimist

    There’s certainly talent there, but I expect he’s dropped off the 40-man. Someone might scoop him up, but they might be able to keep him with an MiLB offer for an extended recovery period.

    Is there such a thing as quick recovery from shoulder surgery?

  5. LDS

    He’s “cheap” but hasn’t pitched in over a year. Is he a non-tender candidate this offseason. Hard to imagine much upside left.

  6. David

    Therapy and rehab is preferable to shoulder surgery for a pitcher. Shoulder surgery, while it can be ok for normal folks, is about a career death knell for a baseball pitcher.

    The prospects of him pitching again are not good. Along with others this year, I doubted whether Dunn would ever throw another major league pitch.
    He will be rehabbing for a year, at least. Maybe be able to pitch in 2025 or at least try. Probably not, probably done. Dunn is done.
    I don’t think this is particularly “bad news” or unexpected, but just acknowledging reality.
    To bad for him and his career.

  7. Jim Walker

    My understanding is that the Reds will be on the hook for Dunn’s rehab regardless. In some past similar circumstances, they have released or non tendered the player then re-signed him to a minor league deal.

  8. Pete

    Michael Siani claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • RedsGettingBetter

      I think the Reds could be a little bit more patient about Siani. It is a good move from Cards hopefully he won’t turned into a Reds killer…

  9. RedsGettingBetter

    Any update on Graham Ashcraft’s toe injury?

    • Pete

      The guy from the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Ashcraft is going on the injury list. To make matters even worse Williamson has Covid and will miss his start tomorrow. Man things are going from bad to worse. They must start hitting to their potential or you can flush the season right down the toilet.

      • Doc

        More opportunities for youngsters. For those of us who are ‘stay the course’ rather than being sucked in by playoff hysteria, this is gaining experience for next year for more players, players who might play crucial roles in the next injury wave.

      • RedsGettingBetter

        Wow, what a bad luck… I get the idea of Kennedy will start tomorrow… Spiers is going to debut on Monday and they should call some guy up to tuesday sending Richardson to the mound on Wednesday again… The series against the Mariners turns into a mission impossible…

  10. Nick in NKY

    I’ve had two surgeries on my left shoulder. I feel for Dunn. It must be beyond agonizing being this close to being a major league pitcher and just feeling like all the universe is against you. Properly rehabbing a shoulder for a normal amateur or hobby athlete can be difficult and lengthy, let alone what a pitcher requires. Best of luck to him, but it’ll be a minor miracle if he ever throws another pitch in a Reds uniform.

  11. DW

    Dunn always seems like a very level-headed and polite young man. I really feel sorry for him.