Miller opts to undergo Tommy John surgery

April 29th, 2017

PHOENIX -- D-backs right-hander has opted to have Tommy John surgery on his ailing right elbow, he announced in the D-backs clubhouse hours prior to Saturday's game against the Rockies at Chase Field.

"After taking some time and sitting back for a couple of days and talking to everybody and getting all the information that I could, I'm just going to go ahead and get the surgery done," Miller said. "With where I am in my career and how many years I have ahead of me, I think it's the logical thing to do.

"If I took the conservative route, rehabbed and it didn't work out, I could possibly miss two years. If I do it right now with no questions asked, feeling pretty good, I'll be throwing bullpens again around Spring Training time and I'll be back with the team. That ultimately makes the most sense to me."

Since the recovery time from the surgery is typically 12 to 18 months, Miller's outlook is probably a bit too optimistic. In a best-case scenario, Miller will probably be back in action sometime during the latter part of next season.

Dr. James Andrews, who Miller consulted, now recommends rehabbing as close to the 18-month mark as possible to avoid recurrence of the injury. Andrews, who conducts many of these surgeries and is the foremost independent doctor in the field, says that 50 percent of all Tommy John patients suffer the injury again.

"We are certainly hoping to get him back on the timetable that will be prescribed, but we're not going to fast forward anything," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "When you're talking about something that's as delicate as Tommy John surgery, we are going to follow that protocol to a tee. Shelby is a hard worker. We all know that. But he's committed to following the process. What that process is has yet to be determined."

Miller was removed during the fifth inning of Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Dodgers because of tightness on the inside of his right forearm and was subsequently diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in that elbow.

Since then, the 26-year-old sought opinions from three doctors: team physician Gary Waslewski, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, and Andrews. He did not meet with Dr. Andrews in person, but sent him his MRI. Miller said he expected ElAttrache to do the surgery, which hasn't been scheduled.

In that inning, Miller faced the first three batters, walking opposing pitcher and before allowing a towering double off the center-field wall.

Miller had sailed through the first four innings and suspects that the injury may have occurred during the McCarthy at-bat.

"That was the first red flag," Lovullo recalled. "Then when I went out there to talk him, Shelby told me a couple of things, one them being, 'I can't feel where I'm throwing the ball like I normally can.' And that was my signal to say, 'That's enough.'"

Miller was well along in his comeback from last year's 3-12 first season in Arizona, a year during which he was sent to the Minors to work out mechanical issues. He was 2-2 with a 4.09 ERA, and the start Sunday was his fourth of the season. He was coming off a 11-2 victory over the Padres on April 18, when he pitched 7 1/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball, striking out five and walking two.

Miller said the tear was significant enough that he didn't think rehab alone would have been a wise course of action.

Six D-backs pitchers in recent years have had the surgery. was on a Minor League rehab stint barely a year out from his surgery when he tore the ligament again and had it replaced a second time. Miller's teammate , who also had the surgery, was among the fellow pitchers Miller said he talked to as he assessed his own situation.

"Patrick's was a little bit different. He had a complete tear," Miller said. "I talked to Patrick, to , , , , all kinds of players that were in the same boat to get their input and see what they thought was right.

"It makes sense to just go ahead with this process. For my peace of mind and the future, it's the right decision to make."