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BRIAN ANDERSON AND TOMMY JOHN SURGERY

During July of the 2005 season, while rehabbing an elbow inflammation at Triple-A Omaha Brian Anderson felt consistent pain from his first start there, beginning with minor soreness and escalating far enough to cause him to end his season. “It’s tough. It’s really hard to swallow. It’s a terrible, terrible feeling to know that the one thing that you want to do, you can’t do,” Anderson said at the time.

Brian Anderson

Nine days later he paid a visit to Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who told him if during exploratory surgery he found a problem with the ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL) he would replace it. As it turns out, Brian’s elbow was essentially FUBAR, with exceptionally large bone chips that had to be broken up before they were removed, as well as a tear in his flexor tendon. “After going into your elbow and seeing the damage, I have no idea how you were able to pitch. No idea at all,” said Dr. Kremchek.

On top of the bone chips and flexor tendon tear, Dr. Kremchek discovered the damaged UCL, the cause of Brian’s pain and inability to pitch effectively. Dr. Kremchek replaced it with a ligament from his left wrist, and when Anderson awoke after the extensive repairs he had practically a whole new elbow.

The procedure was a success, and after rehab and signing with the Rangers in the offseason he made his way back into the game — perhaps too soon. After experiencing elbow pain in an extended spring game it was found he had re-torn his new UCL and had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery.

Brian Anderson

He spent the 2007 year beginning his career as a broadcaster, but never let a return to baseball out of his sight. “I feel there’s a lot more left in the tank,” Anderson said in an interview as seen here. In late January 2008 he returned to the mound to throw a 60 pitch session for Rockies, Indians, Phillies and Rays scouts, and following that the Rays decided to take a shot, giving him a minor league deal and an invitation to Spring Training.

He figures to start the season in Triple-A Durham, but could end up on the major league club to fill out the back of the rotation or shore up the bullpen. This isn’t the first time the Rays have signed a pitcher with multiple Tommy John surgeries under his belt. Al Reyes underwent two during his career and has been a useful veteran addition to the Rays ‘pen.

A note on Tommy John surgery:

Dr. Frank Jobe performed the first successful surgery on Tommy John in 1974 and turned the sports medicine world on its head as well as increasing the shelf life on pitchers. Up until that time the unknown injury was referred to as “dead arm,” it did not always present pain but took away the control and velocity of the pitcher as the arm shifted uncontrollably during the throwing motion.

During that first procedure Dr. Jobe put Tommy John’s chances at 1 in 100 for a complete recovery. Today the surgery has around a 90 percent success rate, becoming a common practice with dozens of pitchers and even position players going under the knife and returning after extensive rehab, sometimes to throw even harder than previous to the operation.

Dr. Jobe credits this to the player having increased conditioning from the long rehabilitation, as well as the fresh ligament in the elbow restoring some velocity that was lost as the old UCL became broken down with age and use.

Quotes from Confessions of a Left-Hander, Royals.MLB.com
Photos credit MLB.com

INTROITUS (AND A LOOK BACK)

More and more often I’m beginning to find some of my friends (mainly R.J.) telling me to write baseball, so I thought I’d give it another shot. I’ve done it before; I had a Rays blog during the 2005 offseason that dwindled after I became busy with school. During the short lifetime of that blog I wrote quite a bit about Joe Maddon and what we, as Rays fans, could expect.

His two years thus far have been more or less what I anticipated given the talent we had on the club. Since then I’ve began to realize that baseball managers don’t play a large role in the win/loss column, or at least, they shouldn’t. Only things like pulling a pitcher too early or too late, or continually trotting out the wrong players or relievers could have a noticeable effect if he was consistently stupid.

Joe Maddon

Like it was written in Moneyball, ideally you just want a “strong chin,” or in other words, a manager who will give the media and fans the idea of leadership and an inspiring, unflappable presence. However, for the most part, the best kind of manager is one that plays the right players as much as possible without running them into the ground, and one that exploits statistical mismatches while at the same time emanating positivity to the club and press even in rough times.

I think, for the most part, Joe has done well fulfilling these parameters. Sometimes fans, not to mention myself, have to wonder at some of his personnel decisions (Tomas Perez in RF comes immediately to mind) and his management of the bullpen, which is not always sensible. However, if you’ve watched the Rays over his two seasons here you know for a fact that he hasn’t had much to work with, especially in the ‘pen.

With his .392 winning percentage he’s third out of the four total Rays coaches (Piniella .412, Rothschild .411, McRae .366) and he looks like he’s in a good position to improve on that mark during the 2008 season with the bevy of moves the Rays have made to shore up the pitching staff along with the probable arrival of A+ prospect Evan Longoria and a legitimate defensive shortstop in Jason Bartlett.

I used to be a skeptic, but I believe now that his continually positive outlook is just what a team like the Rays needs. Where young players might be doubting themselves and the team itself, he can keep their chins up somewhat in this extremely tough division. Time will tell if this year the much improved team can make Joe Maddon look good — and more importantly, make him proud.