Hanrahan to have repeat Tommy John surgery
Joel Hanrahan’s comeback attempt is over. The former All-Star closer and Tigers camp invite will undergo another Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with another tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
When Dr. Keith Meister performs the procedure March 18 at his office in Texas, it’ll be Hanrahan’s second Tommy John surgery in less than 24 months. He isn’t calling this a career-ender, but he’ll have an even tougher path to try to come back than he did this time.
“It’s going to be a slow rehab,” Hanrahan. “[Meister] told me he wants me to go nine months without picking up a ball, and usually that’s four. I’m going to give it what I’ve got, do the rehab and see where it leads. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it through and hopefully get back on the field someday.”
Hanrahan had been trying to get back to pitching since last April, when the Tigers signed him to a Major League contract after watching him throw for teams. He spent the summer rehabbing at the Tigers’ Spring Training facility, but never got to a point where he could pitch off a mound pain-free.
After repeated attempts to throw last summer ended with the same soreness, Meister told him that he might require a second Tommy John surgery before noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews suggested he rest his arm and start throwing again in January. The Tigers were willing to take another shot, signing him to an incentive-laden minor-league contract with a non-roster invite to camp, but never got their hopes up about adding him to their bullpen.
The Tigers unconditionally released Hanrahan on Wednesday.
Hanrahan threw off a mound twice. He cut short his bullpen session Feb. 21 with soreness in his elbow. He played catch since then, but never got back on the mound.
Hanrahan had been hoping the problem was scar tissue. When the soreness didn’t go away, Hanrahan went back to Meister.
“He kind of basically told me the same thing this time,” Hanrahan said. “At that point [last summer], I didn’t believe it, because it didn’t hurt that bad and I don’t know what blowing out your ligament feels like necessarily. I thought there was no way that was true. I was still throwing and some days I could throw pretty good, and some days I couldn’t.”
Once his arm started hurting in non-baseball activities, he realized it was time.
“Trying to play in the [clubhouse] ping-pong tournament, I realized, yeah, that needs to get fixed,” Hanrahan said.
At that point, it became a quality-of-life issue. Even if Hanrahan never pitches again, he was going to need the surgery in order to do basic non-baseball activities.
“I can’t golf,” Hanrahan said. “I can’t pull back the strings on a bow. I can’t play ping-pong. I’ve got a two-year-old son that I look forward to having a lot of time with. It’s one of those quality-of-life things.”
It’s a tough break for a guy who not long ago ranked among the best closers in the game, and it might well mark his last time in a Major League camp. He was clearly down, but he tried to keep a sense of humor in the midst of a terrible situation. Asked what it felt like to be in camp, he said, “I felt like a fantasy camper. … It was fun, and I got to win the ragball championship.”