Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Cubs [Print without images]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Tommy John more common, but still risky

By Jesse Rogers

Kyuji Fujikawa
Kyuji Fujikawa will undergo Tommy John surgery and he hopes he can return strong.
CHICAGO – When it rains it pours for the Chicago Cubs these days. The announcement that reliever Kyuji Fujikawa will have Tommy John surgery comes on the heels of prospect Arodys Vizcaino's news that he's had a set-back from his return for the same surgery, while free-agent pick-up Scott Baker is still rehabbing from Tommy John over a year since his operation.

The Cubs are optimistic all three will return to help them but there are no guarantees.

"Sometimes these things cluster at times, and we haven't had the greatest luck on these things," general manager Jed Hoyer said on Wednesday. "At the same time the success rate versus guys having setbacks I think is a little bit different."

In other words a setback doesn't mean failure. Still, seeing a return in an investment would be nice. The Cubs are now paying three guys over $10 million this year to rehab from Tommy John surgery though Baker should be inching closer to returning -- barring another setback.

"We're getting towards the end of his long toss progression," Hoyer said. "Everything has been positive."

One member of the Cubs who has fully recovered from that type of surgery is reliever Hector Rondon. He went under the knife in 2010 with Cleveland.

"It's a normal process to get the surgery," Rondon said.

His recovery took about 11 months but his setback consisted of fracturing his elbow which meant another year on the mend. He claims one had nothing to do with the other but that can't be known for sure.

"I broke my elbow," Rondon said. "The ligament in the muscle was strong. It's separate surgery."

The point is no one can predict the outcome or return date after Tommy John surgery. Even though it has become more commonplace, that doesn't mean there's a guarantee of a return to relatively quick health. And those setbacks can be frustrating. Minutes after Baker came out of a spring training game he predicted he would be fine, the next day he was shut down.

"With all these guys we're certainly hopeful all these guys will recover and pitch for us," Hoyer said.

"Hopeful" is the key word there.

NOTES:

  • Third base prospect Josh Vitters went on the disabled list again with a rib cage injury. "Frustrating injury but hopefully he'll get through this as well," Hoyer said.
  • Top pick of 2012, Albert Almora, injured his hamstring in a game for Class-A Kane County. Hoyer said he's been running "foul pole to foul pole" and shouldn't be out of action very long.