March 15: DeSclafani will explore the possibility of undergoing platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections in an effort to accelerate his timetable, tweets Buchanan.
March 13: Reds righty Anthony DeSclafani has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, president of baseball operations Dick Williams told reporters including Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. For now, he’ll be shut down for a month before being reevaluated.
It’s obviously good news that DeSclafani isn’t set for Tommy John surgery despite suffering an injury to his UCL. There are, after all, several new techniques being utilized to forestall a surgical option or limit the damage if a procedure is performed. And teammate Michael Lorenzen was able to avoid a TJ procedure last year with a “very similar” injury, per team doctor Timothy Kremcheck (via Buchanan, on Twitter).
Clearly, though, the club will still need to chart a cautious course to avoid greater damage to DeSclafani’s UCL. Steering clear of a future TJ procedure will no doubt be a top priority in determining his rehab approach and timeline. While it doesn’t seem to be on the table presently, avoiding the legendary procedure — with its year-plus rehab timeline — will require care.
What that means in the immediate future is that the Reds likely won’t welcome DeSclafani back to the MLB rotation for quite some time. Lorenzen, whose injury occurred in the middle of March last year, did not make it up to the majors until June 24th. In his case, a bout of mono intervened to extend the recovery timeline, so DeSclafani can reasonably expect to make it back sooner — though he will also need a lengthier ramp-up since he’ll return to the rotation.
For Cincinnati, it obviously stings to lose the presumptive staff ace for a decent chunk of the upcoming season. While there’s little chance the organization would’ve been competitive, DeSclafani certainly could’ve become a highly appealing mid-season trade chip; while that’s still possible, it’s perhaps less likely — and there’ll surely be at least a bit of an injury discount to his value given his recent health questions. Additionally, losing this much time after an injury-shortened 2016 season could mean that DeSclafani will face innings limitations in 2018.
The missing innings will also tell in arbitration, which DeSclafani will qualify for next fall. Even if he continues his excellent 2016 work — 3.28 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 — upon his return, his arb earnings will be held down by the limits on the number of frames he’ll be able to accumulate.