Reds reliever Justin Wilson underwent Tommy John surgery today, the team informed reporters (including Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Cincinnati also reinstated starter Mike Minor from the 10-day injured list to make his season debut, optioning outfielder TJ Friedl to Triple-A Louisville in a corresponding move.
Wilson has been on the IL since late April with what the team had called elbow soreness. Cincinnati transferred him to the 60-day IL last week, suggesting he wasn’t close to returning, and he unfortunately required a reconstructive ligament repair. It’ll obviously end his 2022 season and quite likely cost him the bulk or all of next year as well, given the standard 14-16 month recovery timetable.
The veteran southpaw has typically been a durable and effective middle innings option throughout his career. He’s exceeded 50 frames in six of his 11 big league campaigns. Aside from last season, he hasn’t posted an ERA above 4.20 in any season, and he’s the owner of a career 3.41 ERA. Wilson’s control has waffled at times, but he’s typically missed a fair amount of bats and handled hitters from both sides of the plate.
Wilson had the worst season of his career last year, however, allowing more than seven earned runs per nine over 21 first half appearances with the Yankees. The Reds acquired him midseason — assuming the remainder of his salary to incentivize New York to part with Luis Cessa — and he turned things around a bit in the second half. Wilson had a solid 2.81 ERA in 16 innings for Cincinnati, but his strikeout rate was still a few points below his typical level.
The Fresno State product exercised a $2.3MM player option for this season, but he made just five appearances before landing on the shelf. He’ll hit free agency at the end of the year. Wilson turns 35 years old this summer and surely won’t be ready for next Opening Day, so he seems a likely minor league deal recipient assuming he wants to continue his career. It’s not uncommon to see pitchers recovering from a major procedure ink multi-year minors pacts if they’re expected to miss most or all of the first season.
In more fortunate injury news for Cincinnati, Minor is slated to make his first start for the team tonight against the Nationals. The Reds acquired the veteran southpaw from the Royals for reliever Amir Garrett during Spring Training, aiming to backfill a rotation that was dealt a hit when Cincinnati sent Sonny Gray to Minnesota. It was surprising to see the Reds assume around $7.3MM in salary after they subtracted Gray and Wade Miley to cut costs, but the front office clearly felt Minor would be in line for a bounceback after a rough 2021 season.
Unfortunately, Minor was quickly diagnosed with shoulder soreness and wound up missing the first two months of the campaign. His was among a series of early-season injuries for the Reds, contributing to an atrocious start. Cincinnati sits at 18-32, ahead of only the Nationals in the NL. Their 5.91 rotation ERA is MLB’s second-worst (again, only better than Washington’s). Minor figures to join Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo and rookies Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft in the starting five for skipper David Bell.