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Prospect Dunning addresses TJ surgery

@scottmerkin
March 24, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even after Dane Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., this past Monday, questions remain for the White Sox No. 6 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, as to why he didn’t have the procedure performed earlier. Dunning exited a start for Double-A

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even after Dane Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., this past Monday, questions remain for the White Sox No. 6 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, as to why he didn’t have the procedure performed earlier.

Dunning exited a start for Double-A Birmingham on June 23, 2018, but was diagnosed at the time with a moderate strain. He went through throwing programs and an extensive rehab plan, meaning in hindsight, he has no qualms about the process followed.

“I can’t really just be like, ‘All right, Tommy John surgery’ right then and there,” said Dunning in his first post-surgery comments to the media on Sunday at Camelback Ranch. “My body could have healed. I could have done that six months where I was rehabbing, and it could have come back with no pain.

“There was a big gray area with my injury. There was a lot of ‘what ifs?’ It was really hard to figure it out. But I’m glad with the decision I’m at now.”

Prior to last June’s setback, Dunning’s overall excellence made him a longshot candidate for the team’s fifth starter spot out of Spring Training 2019 and at the very least, put him in the picture for a big league promotion this season. The 24-year-old right-hander, acquired as part of the Adam Eaton trade, produced a 6-3 record with a 2.71 ERA and 100 strikeouts over 86 1/3 innings between stops at Birmingham and Class A Winston-Salem.

Now, he has no early target in mind for a return aside from getting healthy as soon as possible. There was some optimism regarding Dunning’s situation coming from instructional league side sessions last October but Dunning mentioned Sunday elbow pain existed even during that stretch.

“It was a lot lighter then what it was,” said Dunning of the elbow soreness in October. “But once I built back up in Spring Training, the pain started coming back pretty heavy again. It was just constantly as I was throwing my pens. I was able to throw the pens, but it was like it felt a little tight in my arm on certain pitches.

“Certain pitches would be a lot more pain. It kind of scared me for the most part. Each throw, it was like ‘Is this one going to hurt? Is this one not?’ I gave it my all to try to be able to play this season. It just was unfortunate the situation I was in. I kept having pain in my elbow. Ultimately I just decided with the decision of fixing it for sure.”

Jake Burger, who is moving quickly on the recovery path from surgeries to repair two left Achilles ruptures, talked about his de facto support group involving teammates Zack Burdi, Andre Davis and J.B. Olson, who also were rehabbing. The third baseman will be there for Dunning as he works his way back, providing a look at the end process as Dunning begins his recovery.

“I’m there for Dane every step of the way,” Burger said. “I know he's going to get through it. He's a resilient guy, he works hard, so I'm not too concerned about him at all. He's always a phone call away.”

“I’ve had a lot of friends reach out to me who have gone through Tommy John surgery,” Dunning said. “It gives me a little insight of knowing, all right you are going to go through a lot of pain and go through a lot of kinks and stuff like that. But ultimately you will come back. Seeing all these people have this success story with Tommy John, it makes the picture a little brighter for me.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.