Oakland Athletics right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton has elected to undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) earlier this week.
Cotton has been a solid pitcher this spring for the A’s, as they hoped to bring some consistency into their struggling rotation. Monday he struck out 5 for the third time in 2018, before exiting with discomfort in his arm. Since his exit, he has felt optimistic that surgery would not be necessary as he has felt improvement in the discomfort.
In 2017, Cotton had a similar incident in September, after having an MRI there that showed no structural damage, and they believed it was just an isolated event. In 2013 he did have a stress fracture in his right elbow, which resulted in two screws being inserted into the joint. The team, and Cotton, believe that the injuries are unrelated.
The 26-year-old went 9-10 over 24 starts in his 2017 Rookie Season, while earning a 5.58 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. Obviously, the A’s were banking on some improvement from the talented righty as they added him to their rotation.
“It’s tough, because this year I wanted to come out and prove to these guys that I can pitch in the Big Leagues. . . I think I’ve done everything right to get better for this year. . . Now it’s a little setback,” Cotton commented, when asked about his decision on getting the surgery.
With Cotton out of the equation, the A’s are now in a tough spot. Long-reliever Andrew Triggs will most likely be pulled from the bullpen and into the starting rotation, which may take a toll on the bullpen arms, as they won’t have a designated long-relief guy. Manager Bob Melvin sees this position as a necessity should the team go with an 8-man bullpen, in order to not over-work their starters early on in the season.
This would subsequently leave Melvin with a four man bench to manage, which could cause some issues if the A’s face more injury troubles down the road. “From the beginning, I thought eight was going to be the number,” Melvin commented. “We’ll see once we get there. There’s a good chance we’ll go with eight, but we haven’t committed to it yet.”
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