ATLANTA — Braves reliever Cory Gearrin received opinions from three separate doctors in different parts of the country, but the verdict remained the same: The 27-year-old will need Tommy John surgery to repair a tear in his right elbow. Gearrin tore the ulnar collateral ligament on one pitch during a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers last month.
"(The doctors) said you could see from the MRI that the tear was just a one-pitch thing," said Gearrin, who posted a 103 ERA+ in 37 appearances last season. "I think that’s one of the reasons why it caught me off guard. I had never had any elbow issues in the past. For it to kinda happen like that was pretty surprising, but that’s the way it happens sometimes."
Gearrin entered the 2014 season expecting to challenge for a bullpen spot on the Braves’ 25-man roster after logging 69 1/3 big league innings over the past three seasons, but now he’ll join Atlanta starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy in the surgery and year-long rehabilitation process.
Gearrin has not yet decided on which surgeon will perform the procedure. After watching multiple two-time Tommy John guys go through this process in his own clubhouse — Medlen, Beachy, reliever Jonny Venters — he’s received plenty of feedback on what the upcoming process holds, and the No. 1 piece of advice Gearrin, who is already the analytical type, has received is to approach it with confidence.
"After speaking with the training staff here and the different doctors, everyone told me, ‘You really want to be 100 percent (sure) in this process. Whether the choosing your surgeon or during your rehab, so much of this recovery process is gonna be psychological,’" Gearrin said. "So I really just wanted to be 100 percent going into this, about the operation and headed into recovery as well."
Gearrin, a side-arm specialist who does not believe his problems are necessarily due to mechanics, will not be the last Tommy John surgery of this 2014 season. It’s an ever-present problem facing baseball.
Just on Monday, the Braves’ opponent in their opening home series, the division rival New York Mets, learned closer Bobby Parnell will need elbow surgery. Other names include Patrick Corbin (Arizona), Jarrod Parker (Oakland) and Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh). It just really hits home when it’s your arm being operated on.
"It was pretty surreal initially, coming back in after I’d injured it during the game and just thinking about (how much this happens). It’s something you’re around all the time. You see guys on your team, other teams, go through it and you just never really expect it to happen until it happens, I guess," Gearrin said. "It is weird. And in talking to different doctors, my position in particular it’s something that throughout baseball you see, especially with right-handed relievers. It’s not an uncommon thing, it’s just unique when you have to go through it."