Dombrowski not expecting Hanrahan return
Joel Hanrahan’s Tiger tenure appears headed for an end without throwing a pitch in a game, Major or minor league. After the right-handed reliever’s throwing program was shut down this week, Dave Dombrowski sounded like the Tigers have shut the door on the comeback attempt.
“At this point, I would say we’re not counting on him at all,” Dombrowski said on a
Friday Thursday morning conference call to talk about the Joakim Soria trade. “It does not sound encouraging.”
The Tigers signed Hanrahan just under a year removed from surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He was throwing well in workout sessions for teams at the time, and while neither the Tigers nor Hanrahan wanted to put a timetable on his return, he was hoping for eight weeks.
His rehab process since then has been anything but smooth. Hanrahan’s throwing program was halted last month to rebuild arm strength before he began throwing off a mound again a few weeks ago. He didn’t progress beyond that, and he’s now seeing a doctor.
“It’s a situation where there’s another medical check being done,” Dombrowski said, “but I would say it’s highly unlikely he would be able to pitch for us.”
Asked if that had any affect on their trade talks this month, and what they could going forward, Dombrowski said the slow pace of Hanrahan’s rehab had them already planning for this.
“I think we’ve known this for a while,” he said, “so we’ve been operating over a time period here that it would seem doubtful that he would come back.”
Hanrahan signed a one-year contract for a $1 million base salary, with another $2 million available based on his time on the active roster. It was a deal that weighed the risk of a 32-year-old pitcher with over 400 innings recovering from surgery with the reward of an experienced late-inning arm. Hanrahan owns 100 saves over his seven-year big league career, 76 of them as an All-Star closer in Pittsburgh in 2011 and 2012.
“You just have to realize there’s no given when people are coming back from Tommy John surgery, or probably any surgery,” Dombrowski said. “There’s been such significant strides that have been made, it’s phenomenal in the medical field. But there are still some questions attached to it.
“Things don’t always work. Guys don’t always come back the same way. We knew that when we signed him. We really knew it was a spot where we were taking a chance. And I’d have to say we thought that chance was a minimal chance. He was throwing well at that time. But even as we said at the time we signed him, there’s a lot of difference between going out there and throwing, and throwing 93 on the mound, and then going and pitching in a big-league game. That’s an additional stress.
“You’re also in a position where you’re talking about pitching back-to-back days, the exertion of pitching late in a game — there are just so many more steps that are taken. Sometimes they’re downplayed, but they’re steps that need to be taken. And we were aware of that. We went into it with open eyes on that one.
“It’s one where we took a gamble, and it doesn’t look like that gamble worked. But we thought it was a minimal gamble, under the circumstances, in today’s world, and the financial situation at the Major League level.”