Vladimir Gutierrez will undergo Tommy John surgery, the Reds right-hander told reporters (including The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale) today. As per the normal recovery timeline for TJ surgery, Gutierrez will be out of action until July 2023 at the earliest, and his entire 2023 season could be in jeopardy if his rehab is on the higher side of the usual 12-15 month window.
Gutierrez was placed on the 15-day injured list due to a UCL strain about a month ago, and the Reds shifted him to the 60-day IL earlier this week. That move to the 60-day IL came after Gutierrez felt a new kind of arm discomfort following a bullpen session last Tuesday, and a fresh set of tests revealed more severe damage.
“It looked like it was worse than it was the first time I got my MRI,” Gutierrez said via a translator. “It looked like there was a lot more liquid. The doctor told me if you keep going through rehabs and rehabs, you’re going to come back here and we’re going to go through the same process again, so you’ll never get better. Or it’s surgery.”
Gutierrez is in his second Major League season, debuting last year with a 4.74 ERA over 114 innings and 22 starts. His advanced metrics were largely below average, though Nightengale noted that Gutierrez struggled near the end of the season due to fatigue — the right-hander’s last six starts and 21 innings saw him post an ugly 9.43 ERA.
Those struggles continued into 2022, as Gutierrez posted a 7.61 ERA over 36 2/3 innings before going on the injured list. It will now be at least a year before Gutierrez can get back onto a big league mound, which represents the latest setback in his pro career.
The 26-year-old was an international signing out of Cuba in 2016, with the Reds making a sizeable $9.5MM investment ($4.75MM in signing bonus, and an equal amount in penalty fees for exceeding the old international signing bonus limit) to land his services. While Gutierrez was a highly-regarded member of the 2016-17 int’l class, he posted only okay numbers throughout his minor league career. He also missed the entire 2020 season and part of April 2021 due to an 80-game PED suspension.
The Reds were surely hoping that Gutierrez would be a viable member of their starting rotation by now, but his absence now creates another question mark on the pitching staff. Cincinnati is hoping that Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft can form the core of the rotation going forward, but Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle are both major trade candidates as the deadline approaches.