Reds reliever Tejay Antone announced (on Twitter) that he will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow. It’ll be the second time of the right-hander’s career, as Antone previously underwent the procedure in 2017.
It’s a disappointing, if not especially surprising, development. Antone spent most of the past few months on the injured list with forearm troubles. He was activated from the IL on Tuesday but pulled himself from that night’s game just five pitches amidst obvious discomfort. Cincinnati placed him back on the IL yesterday with what the team termed a forearm strain.
While no timetable has been announced, it seems likely Antone will miss the entire 2022 season. Tommy John procedures often require fourteen-plus months of recovery time, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team is particularly cautious with Antone’s rehab given that he’s already undergone the procedure once before.
It’s a notable blow for the Reds, as Antone has been the club’s best reliever. The 27-year-old worked 33 2/3 innings across 23 appearances as a high-leverage weapon, pitching to a 2.14 ERA. Antone punched out hitters at a massive 32.8% clip on the back of an above-average 12.9% swinging strike rate. It’s the second consecutive high-end season to begin Antone’s MLB career, as he broke into the big leagues with 35 1/3 frames of 2.80 ERA ball in 2020.
Despite Antone’s contributions, the bullpen has been a problem for the Reds for much of the year. Cincinnati relievers have a 5.27 ERA that ranks 28th in the league, while they’re closer to middle-of-the-pack in SIERA (4.07) and strikeout/walk rate differential (14.3 percentage points). They’ve been marginally better since remaking their bullpen the week of the trade deadline — when they acquired Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson and Mychal Givens — but Reds’ relievers still have an even 5.00 ERA over the past thirty days. Antone has been on the injured list for almost all of that time already, but holding late leads will be all the more difficult with no possibility of him making it back at this point. At 69-59, the Reds hold a one-game advantage over the Padres in the NL Wild Card race.
Antone will likely be placed on the 60-day injured list whenever the Reds need a spot on the 40-man roster. He’ll need to return to the 40-man over the offseason but can go back on the 60-day IL for the entirety of next season. Antone will continue to accrue service time on the IL and is scheduled to reach arbitration eligibility for the first time after the 2022 campaign.