Lamet to undergo Tommy John surgery

April 13th, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres entered 2018 with immensely high hopes for right-hander . Coming off an impressive rookie campaign, Lamet added a biting curveball and was the highest upside arm in the San Diego rotation. As a sign of their lofty expectations, the Padres named Lamet their No. 2 starter in the Opening Day rotation March 25. Later that day, Lamet threw his final pitch of the year.
That much was confirmed Friday, when the club revealed Lamet will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery next week.
An MRI exam taken after the injury revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in Lamet's pitching elbow. Intially, Lamet hoped to rehabilitate his elbow without Tommy John surgery. But after reaching 90 feet in his throwing progression last week, he began to feel pain again. On Friday, he and the Padres changed course and opted for surgery.
"Everything happened really fast after that injury," Lamet said. "It's not that I didn't believe it, but I wanted to find out. I wanted to let things calm down and understand what would happen to my arm when I tried it."
In 21 starts last season, Lamet posted a 4.57 ERA while setting a franchise rookie record with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He had added a curveball to a dominant fastball/slider mix and appeared poised for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Instead, Lamet bounced a slider in the second inning of his final Cactus League start. That's when he felt tightness in his right forearm. He left the game after one more pitch and was placed on the disabled list to start the season.
"In terms of the timing, it's hard," Lamet said.
"He was our highest upside guy sitting here in our rotation," said Padres manager Andy Green. "That stings. You don't just replace him. I loved the way he went through Spring Training, too -- with an edge. It was with a belief that he was going to pitch at the top of the rotation."
Initially, the Padres hoped Lamet's injury was strictly muscular, and they eyed a six-week rehab period. A follow-up MRI told a different story.
The Padres stayed mum on the results of that MRI until Friday afternoon. It's now apparent Lamet sustained a tear in his UCL, though not severe enough to mandate immediate surgery. Knowing those results, it was Lamet's decision to initially attempt to rehab his elbow.
"What a lot of people don't understand in this process is you don't dictate to your player to go get surgery -- you partner with your player, you advise them, you let the doctors talk to them," Green said. "He felt very strong, he wasn't feeling pain, he wanted to throw, and he wanted to see if he could get through it. ... Even though that whole process took a couple weeks, I think that gives him the peace of mind that he knows he's doing the right thing. He doesn't have a doubt in his head now."
Dr. Keith Meister will perform the surgery on Lamet's elbow next week -- a result Lamet said he always knew was possible but had hoped to avoid. After discussions with his agent, the Padres and teammates who had endured similar circumstances, Lamet decided to ditch his rehab attempt.
"There were other methods out there, other things that I could have maybe tried," Lamet said. "But we all agreed this was probably the best route, the most sure, the most secure route going forward to be able to get back and be able to throw the way I can throw -- instead of maybe coming back and having less velocity or not being myself."
Returning from Tommy John surgery can be a tricky proposition. The timetable generally given ranges from 12-18 months.
In March, the Padres felt Lamet could be a force at the front of their rotation. They still feel that way, but the process has been put on hold.
"It's most disappointing really for him," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. "He had a really nice rookie year last year and looked like he was on the verge of taking some steps forward. ... The expectation is he's back with us in a year, and he's a big part of our future."