After Cincinnati Reds righty Anthony DeSclafani exited his rehab start with the Dayton Dragons on Thursday after just 23 pitches - most of which were hammered harder than hell - it was natural to assume the worst. Disco was pitching in Dayton because of a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow in the first place, after all, an injury that had cost him the entire big league season to date. So when news initially broke that he was dealing with forearm soreness, well, you start to put one and one together.
However, the MRI results on his balky right arm came back today, and instead of a more serious exacerbation of the existing UCL issue, it turns out he’s got elbow tendonitis, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reported.
MRI on DeSclafani showed elbow tendinitis. Not considered surgical, but will get 2nd opinion #reds— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) August 4, 2017
Now, that’s not to say that elbow tendonitis is a walk in the park, either. That’s the same issue that has dogged San Francisco Giants closer Mark Melancon in his first year with his new club, one that has him still on the 10-day DL and has limited him to just 20.2 IP at the big league level all year. It’s also the same injury that kept Los Angeles Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu out for all but one start in 2016, as well as a similar one that wrecked Tampa Bay Rays starter Alex Cobb before he ultimately headed for Tommy John surgery.
The reality is, however, that these cases - while similar - still are happening in elbows that have little in common aside from their ability to earn wages. The tears could be of a different size, the precise motions different, and the level to which they are inflamed significantly varied. So while the current iteration of elbow issue Disco is dealing with isn’t considered surgical, it certainly also means he’s not out of the woods just yet.
It’s that latter portion of the previous sentence that may well be the most relevant to us on this, August 4th. This isn’t still Spring Training, and there aren’t a ton of games or days remaining in the season with which to continue rehabbing with 2017 still in mind. While the Reds themselves still have 54 games left in the season, the minor league affiliates have far fewer, meaning the availability to get thorough rehab outings has a window that’s closing quickly. And if this particular diagnosis sets Disco back by even two weeks, the recovery time he’d need to get back to where he was prior to the injury flare-up last night would push him up against the very end of that window.
So, it’s not out of the question to think that Disco may just get shut down for good this year, as The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan speculated on earlier today.
That scenario would be a bummer on a number of levels, not the least of which is actually getting to watch a really good Reds pitcher pitch for the Reds. Disco ain’t saving the 2017 season (nor is anyone else), but seeing that he’s got an arm capable of getting big league hitters out is something tangible to build on as they head into this coming offseason, something they’re hoping to keep seeing from Homer Bailey, as well. The 2017 season was supposed to be dedicated to seeing what the Reds currently had as they gear up for 2018-2019, importantly so they knew exactly what it was they needed to go out and get from outside the franchise. And while Disco entered last offseason as a guy the Reds hoped to pencil in for 200 innings and 3-4 WAR going forward, they’ve now got a pile of risk analysis and contingency planning to do to see what it is they can count on from him down the road.
The boat you spent all summer repairing has not sunk, but it sure looks as if you’ll have to wait until it gets warm again next year to take it out on the lake. A bummer, no doubt, but it could be a lot worse.