Atlanta Braves Ace Looking at Tommy John Surgery

The Atlanta Braves have high hopes for this season at 4-2 through the first six games, taking their first series against rival Philadelphia; they are working at a 101-win pace. Until yesterday, everything was going to plan. And now, the Braves ace Spencer Strider is in the training facility looking at a probably Tommy John-fueled season-ending nightmare. 

The Incident: Strider’s Elbow Discomfort

During the Braves’ recent face-off against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Strider was seen leaving the field prematurely, sparking off speculations about a possible injury. The right-handed pitcher, the reigning MLB strikeout king and wins leader, got shelled in the first inning and completed only four innings before elbow discomfort forced him to exit the field. 

The concern escalated when it was noticed that Strider’s pitch velocity had noticeably decreased throughout his 88-pitch start. Such a performance dip was unusual for Strider, raising immediate concerns about a potential elbow injury.

Immediate Aftermath and Medical Examination

Post the game, Braves’ manager, Brian Snitker, voiced his concern about Strider’s performance. Snitker had initially dismissed Strider’s off-day as “just one of those nights.” However, when Strider himself reported his elbow discomfort, the gravity of the situation became evident.

The following day, it was confirmed that Strider would undergo an MRI scan to ascertain the extent of his discomfort. This marked a significant development, as the MRI scan would reveal if Strider’s discomfort was due to a minor strain or a more serious issue like a ligament tear that could potentially sideline him for a substantial period.

It’s not the end of the world, but all baseball fans are holding their breath while awaiting the forthcoming MRI. Strider will spend some time on the injured list, but if this goes south and it’s Tommy John time, that would be catastrophic. 

Comparisons to Other Pitchers and Potential Tommy John Surgery

The 2024 MLB season has been particularly harsh on pitchers, with numerous starting pitchers from various teams landing on the injured list. Notable names include Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom of the Texas Rangers, Sonny Gray of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros. Most recently, Shane Beiber of the Cleveland Guardians was lost for the season.

Strider’s situation is much worse in comparison, especially those who have already had to undergo Tommy John surgery. This surgical procedure, named after the former MLB pitcher Tommy John, involves the reconstruction of the elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament using a tendon from elsewhere in the patient’s body. It is typically recommended for pitchers who have suffered severe elbow injuries.

Given Strider’s symptoms and the results of his forthcoming MRI, there are concerns that he may also need Tommy John surgery, which would put him out of action until 2025. It’s not great, but having this procedure done at 25 years old would cut down on recovery time and improve his velocity and durability for the remainder of his young career. 

Looking Forward

As of now, all eyes are on Strider’s MRI scan results. The findings of this medical examination will determine the course of action for Strider and the Braves management. The hope is that Strider’s elbow discomfort is due to a minor strain that can be treated with rest and therapy.

In the meantime, the Braves have a few options to consider several options for filling his rotation spots, such as young right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver and 2023 All-Star Bryce Elder, or put in a call for Trevor Bauer. None are an adequate replacement, Strider is poised for a Cy Young and to be the most dominant pitcher of the next decade

Main Image: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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