Arizona Diamondbacks: Miiler opts for Tommy John surgery

Shelby Miller will have surgery on his right elbow. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Shelby Miller will have surgery on his right elbow. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

Right-hander Shelby Miller of the Arizona Diamondbacks decided to have surgery on his right elbow.

Though Shelby Miller of the Arizona Diamondbacks said the decision was careful and measured, the ultimate judgment was hardly in question. Though Miller consulted with several players who suffered from a similar malady, Miller’s future and the course of his baseball career represented the core of the decision.

First thought as tightness in his right elbow, the final judgment was a partial ligament tear, and Miller decided to have Tommy John surgery, Miller will decide on a date for the procedure in the coming days.

Finalized as that partial ligament tear, Miller gathered the media to his locker in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse before Saturday’s game with the Colorado Rockies and delivered the news himself. The declaration came from the pitcher rather through a news release from the club or team officials. In the end, Miller will be lost for the rest of this season, and possibility for the 2018 season.

Speaking optimistically, Miller told Venom Strikes he expects to be back for spring training and then chart his course. That would allow less than one year before he’s back on the mound, but recent surgeries to pitchers have not been that optimistic. The regulated time table is around 15 to 16 months and if Miller follows that timetable, he could miss all of the 2018 season as well.

For now, Miller took a realistic approach and resigned to the grueling rehab period which await. On Saturday standing before his locker, Miller told Venom Strikes he is prepared to attack the challenging months ahead with vigor.

"I’ll dominate the rehab process. I want to get back as soon as possible. Look, this suck but I took into account my future. If I look to rehab and it doesn’t work out, I’m out for the next year years. I’m thinking about my career and this was the best decision."

At 26-years-old, Miller is young enough to make a strong recovery and be productive. Whether this means as a starter or in the bullpen, that will be determined. For now, the Houston native faces a long and protracted recovery period, and reached out to several pitchers.

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Two in particular included Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. Miller would not disclose the nature of these conversations, but only he reached out to players with a similar experience.

In Richards’ case, he suffered a torn ligament in his pitching elbow during a game on May 6, 2016. Richards decided not to undergo surgery and instead opted for a stem cell procedure. Reporting to spring training this past February, Richards threw the ball well, but during his initial start of the 2017 against Oakland on April 6, he reported tightness in his biceps. Since, the Angels placed Richards on the 60-day disabled list.

For Wainwright, the former Cy Young Award winner suffered an Achilles tendon rupture during the 2015 season. Accelerating his rehab process, Wainwright’s recovery was listed at five months and came back to commenced the 2016 season as the Cardinals opening day pitcher.

In reaching out for both support and advice, Miller’s decision, at best, is agonizing. At the same time, he remains realistic and his decision to go under the knife was made in his best interest and the long-term interest of the Diamondbacks.

Tommy John surgery is never expected. Miller’s procedure is the seventh to Arizona franchise pitchers in recent years. Daniel Hudson underwent two Tommy John procedures and Matt Reynolds, David Hernandez, Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo all underwent this surgery.

As difficult a decision for Miller, manager Torey Lovullo revealed that the news, while not totally unexpected, hit the team hard. Telling Venom Strikes on the impact, Lovullo said the hour is difficult

"This is a tough day for all of us. The decision is a tough one and we support Shelby every step of the way. We’re anxious to see him through this process. We’re hurting for Shelby right now."

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At the same time, Lovullo said this is the time for several in the organization to step forward. Miller’s replacement in the rotation, Lovullo promised, would be made Sunday and just before the Diamondbacks embark on a six-game road trip to Washington and Denver