Look for Oakland starting pitcher A.J. Griffin to need about 12 months or a little longer to get back on the mound for the A’s after he underwent Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery Tuesday in Houston.
Griffin had Houston-based Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff take a tendon from his right wrist transplant it into place of his right ulnar collateral ligament. A’s trainer Nick Paparesta said Mehlhoff was “excited’’ about how well the surgery had gone.
The plan now is for Griffin to take four months off without throwing, then spend two months throwing on the side to build up his arm strength. At about the six-month post Griffin should start throwing off the mound. At or about the 12-month mark the A’s will start to think in terms of having him face competition.
“That’s if there are no issues,’’ said Paparesta, who said the 26-year old Griffin had time on his side.
He will also have fellow starter Jarrod Parker on his side. Parker had the same surgery in March, the second time around the block for him. Paparesta said Parker having been through it before will make it easier on the always-inquisitive Griffin.
“It’s great for A.J. because Jarrod’s been through it before,’’ Paparesta said. “A.J.’s going to ask a lot of questions. That’s just who he is. So that will be helpful throughout the process.’’
Parker seems ready. In a tweet wishing luck before the surgery, he told Griffin “Tomorrow starts the transformation of us soon becoming `best friends’ and motivators to each other!’’
If he needs more information than Parker can provide, Griffin will be able to pick up the phone to call A’s Triple-A pitcher Fernando Rodriguez. It was Mehlhoff’s great success with Rodriguez, who has a 1.04 ERA at Sacramento this year after having Tommy John surgery a year ago March, that led Griffin to choose Mehlhoff to do the surgery.
“Having a relationship with Fernando made this a good choice for him,’’ Paparesta said. “Fernando’s (results are) exactly what you’d expect and hope for.’’
That being said, Rodriguez is a hard-throwing reliever. Griffin is a softer-throwing starter, someone who is never going to throw 97 mph and who needs control and finesse to have success. The A’s will simply want Griffin to get back to throwing the way he was before the surgery.
Griffin was held out of the first round of the playoffs against the Tigers last year because of elbow discomfort, but he’d hoped a winter of rest had gotten him healthy. A handful of starts into the Cactus League, however, he was having trouble with is control and his elbow was hurting.
Taking a month off for rest didn’t help, so surgery was the next option.
“When you have something that causes pain, you want it to go away,’’ Paparesta said. “Now the biggest thing we’ve got to deal with is keeping A.J. confined.’’
The A’s aren’t going to lock him in a room, but they will want to make sure Griffin doesn’t do more than he should before he should do it.
Griffin is part of a trend as the 17th Major League player to have Tommy John surgery this season – and it’s just April. There were only 24 Tommy John-style surgeries for the ending 2013 season involving big leaguers, so Griffin and Parker and the other 15 may be part of a trend baseball will have to address before too much longer.