Anytime you hear of a pitcher who’s seeing a doctor, you might half-expect ‘UCL Tear’ to soon follow. When you hear of a pitcher looking for a third opinion, you expect it to be the case. Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller has asked all the questions, and he’s now got the answers. Arizona thought the problem was a strained flexor tendon after experiencing forearm tightness. It turns out Shelby Miller is to undergo Tommy John surgery.
#Dbacks Shelby Miller has tear in UCL. Evaluating his options. Also has flexor strain.
— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) April 27, 2017
Shelby Miller Opts for Tommy John Surgery
His second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache revealed a reported partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. A third opinion on behalf of renowned Dr. James Andrews gave Miller the final word on his immediate future. Miller had some thinking to do.
The 26-year-old righty considered a couple of options. According to MLB.com Diamondbacks beat writer Oliver Macklin, Miller was looking toward stem-cell treatment and platelet-rich plasma therapy, but ultimately settled for Tommy John surgery. The words from the former first-rounder himself are moving.
— Shelby C Miller (@ShelbyMiller19) April 29, 2017
Stem-cell treatment would have been a fast-track to the mound. Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Garrett Richards decided on that option in 2016 in order to more quickly see innings in 2017. Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today breaks down why it may be a better alternative to reconstructive surgery:
“Even with less-favorable odds than reconstructive surgery, which has an 80% success rate for returning to action and 67% for pitching 10 games or more, stem cell therapy is gaining acceptance as an option for pitchers with partial UCL tears. The recovery time is shorter – 3-5 months instead of 12-18 – and the treatment less invasive.”
Shelby Miller could have opted to give the forearm strain time to heal, and monitor his arm closely as he pitches through the tear, much like Miami Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen recently announced.
It is clear Miller has an eye toward the future, taking the proven route even if it spells an end to his 2017 season. He hasn’t had the best start to the season, throwing 22 innings at a 4.09 ERA. Let’s just hope he can throw again when it’s all said and done.