PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks admire the way All Star Stephen Strasburg has recovered from his 2010 Tommy John surgery. The path he followed is something else again. It is a road they do not plan to duplicate with Patrick Corbin, their All-Star.
Thirteen months after Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery, he returned to the major leagues in September 2011. It went well, as far as it went. But as a precaution, Washington opted to limit Strasburg’s innings in 2012, a decision that caused him to miss their stretch run and left him on the bench for their first-round playoff loss to St. Louis.
The D-backs want Corbin and all of their Tommy John survivors — Daniel Hudson, Matt Reynolds, David Hernandez and Bronson Arroyo — back for the long haul. And if it takes several extra months to prolong a career by years, so be it.
Corbin is unlikely to open the 2015 season with the D-backs, manager Kirk Gibson said Tuesday.
"It may be May. It may be June. I think more like even June for him. He would probably punch me if he heard me saying that," GIbson said.
"We’re more conservative now than we have ever been with the rehab on that surgery. We are going to make sure we err on the side of very cautious. It’s something that you are going to take your time and make sure that he is ready to go. You’re not going to expect him to come back and throw 220 innings. Kind of manage his rehab through innings and then put him in a position to finish the season strong."
Corbin, a 2013 All-Star, wants to return as quickly as possible, of course, after his late March surgery, and some pitchers have come back in about 12 months. At the same time, the Strasburg situation provides a compelling lesson.
"I think the most logical answer would be to take it slow in the front end and make sure you finish it through the end of the season and playoffs hopefully, and that leads into a normal offseason the next year," Corbin said.
"I’d like to finish the season instead of do something maybe like Strasburg, when he started the season and then they shut him down. I’d like to do something vice versa to that."
D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall said last week that the D-backs will be in the market for an outfield bat and starting pitching, and the uncertain timing of Corbin’s return seems to make the acquisition of another starting pitcher more important.
Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson and Vidal Nuno have filled the rotation since Cahill returned from the minor leagues at the All-Star break.
Corbin was the ace of the 2013 staff, going 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA, and his injury in a exhibition game against Cleveland on March 15 was the first in a series of debilitating blows for a D-backs team that leads the NL in player-games lost to injury and in rookies used (18) this season.
Corbin and reliever Hernandez, who had Tommy John surgery a week after Corbin, will take the next step in their rehab on Sept. 8, when they play catch for the first time since the surgery. They are scheduled to throw for 10 minutes at 45 feet on flat ground, and they will continue to throw until Nov. 1 before taking a month off.
"We want the process to be over, whether it takes two months longer. We are so tired of not being out there," Hernandez said.
D-backs trainer Ken Crenshaw has laid out a plan to get both back with all deliberate speed.
"I think they all respect Ken and the program that he has laid out," Gibson said. "They talk to the doctors. They are all anxious, but they understand that they have to give it time, because they don’t want to go through it again. They want to make sure it is healed, so you are in a position you can recover from your previous outing. Just because you feel like you can, there is more to it than that. Every time you go out there, it takes something out of you, whether you are healthy or coming off Tommy John surgery."
Corbin is on board.
"I just want to make sure everything is fine and obviously will talk to the training staff and the coaches here," Corbin said. "We’ll see what their idea is. I don’t know if they want to overdo it next year and make me throw over 200 innings or something like that.
"We’ll just see where we are in spring and go from there. Hopefully I’m feeling strong and back to normal. I know the biggest thing is, you can feel good at some times and some times you feel bad. You can’t really push it too hard too early. No one really knows exactly when that is and what time that is. We’ll see how my body feels and reacts."