Yankees right-hander Ben Heller underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, according to a team media release. Dr. Christopher Ahmad performed the surgery, and Heller also had a bone spur removed from his throwing elbow as part of the procedure. Heller will now miss all of the 2018 season and most of the 2019 season recovering from the surgery, as per the usual 12-15 month timeline for TJ patients.
It’s a very tough blow for Heller, who was emerging as one of the many promising young arms in the Yankees’ system. Originally a 22nd-round pick for the Indians in the 2013 draft, Heller came to New York as part of the Andrew Miller trade package in July 2016 and made his MLB debut that same season. Heller tossed 18 Major League innings in 2016-17, to go along with a strong minor league career that saw him post a 2.76 ERA, 12.1 K/9, and a 3.42 K/BB rate. All but one of Heller’s 197 career minor league appearances came out of the bullpen, as his upper-90s fastball and solid slider made him a very intriguing relief prospect.
Heller was already on the 60-day DL due to the bone spur issue, which unfortunately proved to be the harbinger to a much more serious problem once doctors examined his arm. The Yankees had planned to send Heller down to Triple-A, though the transaction was voided when he was placed on the DL. As a result, Heller will continue to earn Major League service time for the entire season as he recovers from the Tommy John surgery.