On Monday’s opening game against the Brewers, Tejay Antone entered the game to stop the bleeding as Milwaukee had overtaken the Reds. As crappy as that games was going there had to be at least a glimmer of hope for most Reds fans. The club was at full strength, sans Jesse Winker, for the first time in months. The front office had done a little bit to at least strengthen the middle and the backend of the bullpen, but the Reds were truly waiting for Michael Lorenzen, Lucas Sims, and Tejay Antone to come back in full. Monday was the first day they could say that was true. Storied philosopher, Mike Tyson, once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. It only took a few pitches and the plan the Reds had for a Tejay Antone came apart rapidly. After showing some discomfort for a few pitches, Antone reared back to toss one of his storied sliders and you could see the immediate discomfort in his face and how he seemed to favor the inside of his elbow and forearm. He basically hung his arm limply and called for trainers. Considering what he was rehabbing back from, and his previous injury history, you could tell that Antone knew what was wrong, the Reds training staff knew what was wrong, and hell even I could tell what was wrong.
He had torn his ulnar collateral ligament and would be facing off another Tommy John surgery and everyone just watched it happen live.
Tommy John surgery is something that typically delays a pitcher for a year or so, and can derail development in younger prospects and players, but is statistically something that causes pitchers to come back stronger. Hunter Greene having Tommy John surgery kind of sucked but it’s common enough anymore for a pitcher to undergo it once. It seems almost normal. However, there is a lot of rehab that goes into the process. What we’ve been seeing historically is more velocity, higher spin rates, and actually better pitchers afterwards. Hell, there was even a very stupid trend/myth, I believe it was a trend as much as I believe kids were actually eating Tide Pods en masse, where parents were pushing for their kids to receive Tommy John surgery in adolescence to give them “bionic” arms. While it is true that pitchers do sometimes come back better after a first Tommy John surgery, due to the rehab and strength benefits, there is an even darker demon behind the surgery. If it happens a second time the chances of coming back and coming back effectively are not good. It’s a big reason why the Mets are so freaking cautious with Jacob DeGrom. Every time he has elbow discomfort they fear the worst and they should.
Luckily, Antone doesn’t have to go far to receive treatment from one of the most sought after orthopedists in the country, and Tommy John specialist, Dr. Timothy Kremchek. I know he’s often the butt of a lot of jokes here but there is a reason the best go to him. In fact, if you’d like to read a pretty good article on what goes into the surgeries and outcomes for a second Tommy John, I’d recommend you read the this article from the San Diego Tribune when they get into the nitty gritty of the situation when Mike Clevinger went under the knife for the second time. I particularly found this quote informational.
“On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said Tuesday. “… The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.”
However, most guys that get a second Tommy John surgery are in the twilight of their careers and just don’t have the time, nor the body, to go through the rehab a second time and pitch effectively afterwards. I thought this seemed low, but the subsequent article listed only 42 Major League pitchers to undergo a second Tommy John surgery so it is rare. Some pitchers to come back from the surgery with success are guys such as Nathan Eovaldi and Daniel Hudson. Hudson never started again, and that would likely be the career path for Antone. A second Tommy John surgery doesn’t necessarily mean the death of a career it’s just another major hurdle.
Tejay Antone is currently 27 years old. The typical Tommy John surgery takes roughly a 12-18 month recovery time. I’d assume a second takes a tad longer. Sadly, that means that Antone will miss the 2022 season but should be ready to try and make his comeback in 2023. I don’t know exactly where all the announcements of the injury was made but Antone confirmed it himself this morning.
Not how I imagined my season ending. I will be undergoing my second Tommy John surgery tomorrow. I have full trust in Dr. Kremchek and his team to get me back even better this time. Life is bigger than one person’s career. My hope through this whole thing is to inspire others.— Tejay Antone ⚾ (@TejayAntone) August 26, 2021
This tweet is gut wrenching for a couple reasons. First, Antone is straight up acknowledging his career is on the line with this injury. I’m sure the history of a second surgery and the chances have been relayed to him. Which is why they tried every rehab option they could in the first place. Secondly, it was reported before he pitched Monday night on the radio broadcast how his setback earlier in the season wore on him mentally. The previous injury bringing him to tears because how badly he wanted to pitch and help the team and couldn’t. Now, Tejay has to go through all of this again with the big cloud of historical medical uncertainty hanging over his head.
However, Tejay Antone put one more thing in his tweet that I think reverberates loudly about his situation and life in general. Life IS bigger than one person’s career and something I think we could all keep in perspective because it’s an incredibly healthy and optimistic mindset. It is my hope, and the hope of everybody at Red Reporter, that Tejay Antone makes a full and fruitful recovery from his injury. He seems like a good, solid dude with a tremendous work ethic. It would be awesome to see him slinging that nasty slider for the Cincinnati Reds again in 2023.