A hitter and a pitcher each found himself in the same predicament on this June Wednesday when they learned they are both headed for season-ending surgery. Veteran New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and up-and-coming Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy will both be going under the knife; Teixeira will have surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist and Bundy will undergo ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction -- Tommy John surgery -- on his right (throwing) elbow. Neither story is entirely surprising, as both were struggling with their injuries since the spring, and while Teixeira managed to play in a few games, he was never himself. Each player can at least take comfort in knowing a full recovery should be expected including, of course, an eventual return to play.
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Mark Teixeira finishes the season hitting just .151 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees: From the time Teixeira suffered a partial tear of a tendon sheath in his right wrist this spring, the concern was not only whether he could recover enough to return to play, but whether that recovery would prove temporary. He did eventually return to play, but lasted only 15 games before the discomfort in his right wrist proved too much to overcome. Beyond any pain associated with the inflammation in his wrist, Teixeira was not able to swing at full strength when hitting from the left side of the plate, not surprising given the torsion the right wrist is subject to during that motion.
The tendon sheath serves as a layer of protection for the tendon it surrounds, shielding it from friction against the adjacent bony surface. The tendon, the extensor carpi ulnaris, contracts to move the wrist in the desired direction and helps provide stability during a swing. While the sheath does not contribute to wrist function directly, it is critical to safeguarding the tendon. Damage to the sheath, depending on the location and extent of it, can result in pain, inflammation and, in some cases, instability of the tendon as it can move out of position with extremes of wrist motion. All of these issues can result in a sensation of weakness or loss of power, something Teixeira indicated he was experiencing.
The good news for Teixeira is that he has to look no further than within his AL East division to see a fellow player who has successfully returned following similar surgery. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista underwent surgery in September and by January was hitting in a cage. Bautista started the season on time and has had no issues with his wrist thus far. While no two surgeries are identical and a projection will be better formulated following Teixeira’s operation, he can be optimistic about his chances of full health for the 2014 season.
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Dylan Bundy probably won't be ready to pitch until later in the 2014 season.
Dylan Bundy, P, Baltimore Orioles: In May, Bundy experienced a setback while on a limited throwing program following his initial incidence of elbow discomfort in April. At that time, Bundy was seen by Dr. James Andrews and received a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection. The hope was that it would allow him to return to function but the outlook was uncertain at best. Despite an MRI that showed “no significant structural damage,” the detection of function-limiting ligament wear is limited at best. In actuality, it is the player’s own signs and symptoms that best dictate just how serious an ulnar collateral ligament injury is. Whether it manifests as pain, stiffness, a drop in velocity, a loss of command or some combination therein, the pitcher’s inability to throw effectively is what ultimately removes him from the mound, regardless of how muted an MRI finding might be.
This appears to have been the case with Bundy, who went through the normal course of treatment -- mostly rest and rehabilitation, along with an injection in the second phase -- in an effort to retain his season. Unfortunately, Bundy’s arm dictated when his season would end, which, it turns out, was before it ever really got started. Now he faces a long road back following reconstructive surgery, but he will do so with the confidence of a healthy elbow. Bundy may not pitch in games before the second half of next year, but given the high level of success following surgery, his outlook now is more promising and more predictable than it was in April.