There is no way for the A’s to do anything but wince at the news that starting pitcher Jarrod Parker suffered a fractured medial epicondyle when he felt his elbow explode while delivering a pitch in the sixth inning for Nashville Friday.
He went from being perhaps 10 days away from a return to the Oakland organization to being back wondering if he will ever pitch again.
Not to be alarmist, but the epicondyle is one of the bones a Tommy John graft is typically hooked up to. Depending on where the fracture is Parker could simply need the fracture to be repaired or he might need the whole Tommy John surgery for a third time.
Tommy John procedures have gotten exponentially better over the last two decades, but historically repeat procedures have been much less effective, although former A’s reliever Jason Isringhausen had the procedure done three times and continued to pitch.
The thing is, most of the pitchers who have had successful multiple Tommy John surgeries have been relievers. If Parker comes back successfully, whether or not he needs another full Tommy John process, he may be looking at being a reliever as being his best shot.
There’s no telling which direction this thing will take.
“We have to figure out what the best option is to get this thing healed,’’ A’s trainer Nick Paparesta said. “Find out if the graft is still intact and if everything is the way it should be and figure out what we need to get done and when. They won’t know until they get in and do the fracture.’’
Jesse Hahn, who had a Tommy John surgery in 2010, knows exactly where the bone is and exactly what the fracture may mean. He called it “terrible news.’’
And so it is. Parker has had the promise of being a rising start in American League pitching ranks until 14 months ago, when discomfort in his elbow led to him needing a second Tommy John surgery. He’d been progressing without pain, throwing harder all the time, to the point where he could visualize stepping back into the rotation, a vision the A’s could share.
Now all that is gone. Parker may not have to go back to starting all over, but it’s clear that his return has been sidetracked at the very least. And if he is finally able to return, it may not be as a starter.