Arizona Diamondbacks: Silvino Bracho’s Broken Heart…er, Elbow

Rosters are whittled and shaped in Spring Training, sometimes by forces beyond team control. The latest injury to Diamondbacks reliever Silvino Bracho is one of those cases.

Diamondbacks reliever Silvino Bracho will undergo Tommy John surgery, knocking him out for the entirety of the season, tweets the Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. Bracho left his last spring outing with elbow discomfort, and this represents the worst-case scenario.

Bracho will miss not only the entirety of the 2019 season, but potentially some of 2020 as well, MLB Trade Rumors reports. The injury comes just as Bracho seemed to cement himself as part of the Diamondbacks bullpen picture. He was out of options, which helped his cause, but it was a strong finish to the 2018 season that gave Bracho the inside track to a prominent role in the 2019 pen.

On a personal level, the injury is nothing short of heartbreaking for Bracho. He won’t return to game action until close to his 28th birthday – and that’s if he is ready in the first half of next season. He appeared in 31 games with the big league club last year, and with a 93.5mph heater, he struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings against 3.5 BB/9. A 3.19 ERA stuck very closely to a 3.26 FIP, good for an impressive 137 ERA+.

If there’s any silver lining for Bracho, it’s the commonplace nature of Tommy John surgery in this era. There is no shortage of examples for whom he can look for inspiration as he rehabs. Still, it’s a blow.

From a team perspective, the injury doesn’t move the needle much for the Diamondbacks, though it does remove the safety net from under back-end righties Archie Bradley, Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano. I hate to say this because of the heartbreak facing Bracho, but his absence does open up a development spot in the bullpen that will benefit the club long-term.

Yoan Lopez, 26, will likely get the first crack at Bracho’s roster spot. He has given up one run in three innings thus far this spring. Veteran lefty Marc Rzepczynski is a good option to soak up some innings in April and May if the Dbacks don’t want to tease their youngsters out into the bright lights of the big club before they’re ready.

Given the long-shot nature of the coming season, my personal hope is that Torey Lovullo and Mike Hazen will trust an unproven arm like Jimmie Sherfy over someone with more ML experience like Rzepczynski or Matt Andriese. The Diamondbacks expected Silvino Bracho to take on primary responsibilities in the middle innings (with T.J. McFarland), but instead they’ll need to call the first audible of the 2019 season.

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Hopefully, Bracho can work his way back into the mix sometime during the 2020 season. For the time being, he’ll be placed on the 60-man injured list, opening a spot on the 40-man roster.