March 17: Cotton is set to undergo Tommy John surgery, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports via Twitter.
March 16: Slusser tweets that Cotton is getting his second opinion today. The right-hander adds that he currently has full strength in his elbow and isn’t experiencing much in the way of pain.
March 15: The Athletics received some unwelcome news today. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to report (Twitter links), righty Jharel Cotton has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor muscle.
Clearly, the UCL is the major concern here. The diagnosis indicates that there is some amount of tearing to that key elbow ligament. It’s not yet known what treatment Cotton will undergo, though he’s slated to receive a second opinion before deciding.
Any kind of surgical outcome would surely mean an extensive absence. Even a “primary repair” procedure, rather than full-blown Tommy John surgery, would likely put Cotton’s 2018 season in doubt. Of course, an increasing number of pitchers are able to pursue rest-and-rehab programs, often supplemented by stem cell and/or platelet-rich plasma treatment, as an alternative to going under the knife.
Cotton had been expected to play an important role in the Oakland staff after making 24 MLB starts last year (though he struggled to a 5.58 ERA). Now, it seems likely he’ll be sidelined for quite some time, even if he pursues a non-surgical approach to dealing with the injury.