Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara was placed on the injured list a week ago, with his injury described at that time as a right forearm flexor strain. Manager Skip Schumaker today told Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald that an MRI revealed Alcantara has a sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament. It seems the club hasn’t ruled out a return this season from the righty, who played catch today, per McPherson. “Watching him throw is a good thing,” Schumaker said. “It’s a progression. We’re going to watch it every day and go from there.”
The club hasn’t announced the severity of the sprain, though the fact that they are holding out hope of him returning later this year perhaps indicates it is on the mild side. A sprain of the UCL can be a precursor to an extremely significant result like Tommy John surgery, though not in all cases. Phillies prospect Andrew Painter was diagnosed with a UCL sprain earlier this year and did ultimately require Tommy John, though Mason Miller of the Athletics was diagnosed with a mild UCL sprain in May and returned to the A’s about four months later.
It seems that a lot is still to be determined about the steps forward. Earlier today, a report at the Herald from McPherson, Craig Mish and Barry Jackson relayed that the next steps are still being worked out. Alcantara is now apparently pain-free and could return to the club in a week if that continues to be the case. But there’s also another path wherein he would be shut down for four to six weeks and then re-evaluated in October.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a pitcher like Alcantara to the Marlins, even though his results have taken a step back from last year’s. He was crowned with the National League Cy Young award after posting a 2.28 earned run average over 228 2/3 innings in 2022. His ERA has ticked up to 4.14 this year, though he’s largely gotten back on track after a rough start, registering a 3.04 ERA since July 3.
In spite of Alcantara not quite being his most dominant self this year, the Marlins are having one of their best seasons in years. They are currently 74-71, putting them a game and a half back of a Wild Card spot in the National League. The last time the Marlins made the playoffs in a full season was 20 years ago, back in 2003.
Without Alcantara, the club’s rotation currently consists of Jesús Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, Eury Pérez, Braxton Garrett and Johnny Cueto. There’s a lot of upside in that group but it would naturally be even better with a healthy and effective Alcantara in the mix.
More information will surely be revealed in the weeks to come, with a wide range of outcomes seemingly possible, from Alcantara returning in a week to him being shut down for the year.