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Espinoza set to have Tommy John surgery

Padres pitching prospect hasn't pitched this season
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Padres No. 6 prospect Anderson Espinoza will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it even began.

The 19-year-old right-hander missed the first three months of the season because of a forearm strain and resumed throwing about a month ago. On Thursday -- the fourth bullpen session into his rehab -- Espinoza felt further tightness in his elbow. He has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar colateral ligament and is expected to undergo surgery next week in Dallas.

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SAN DIEGO -- Padres No. 6 prospect Anderson Espinoza will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it even began.

The 19-year-old right-hander missed the first three months of the season because of a forearm strain and resumed throwing about a month ago. On Thursday -- the fourth bullpen session into his rehab -- Espinoza felt further tightness in his elbow. He has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar colateral ligament and is expected to undergo surgery next week in Dallas.

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"Not being able to pitch, that's been frustrating for him," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "For us last year, we were able to see flashes of what he can do in the last month there in [Class A] Fort Wayne. The biggest thing for us is we just want to get him right, get him healthy."

Last July, Espinoza came to the Padres from Boston in a straight-up swap for left-hander Drew Pomeranz. At the time, Espinoza was ranked as San Diego's top prospect. He was recently listed at the team's No. 6 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.

That deal ultimately earned Preller a 30-day suspension for undisclosed medical records, regarding Pomeranz. A year later, it's Espinoza who's suffered the bulk of the health troubles. Still, the Padres are adamant that Espinoza fits as a major part of their future.

"If you're looking for silver linings, there's obviously a lot of pitchers in the big leagues that have repaired elbows and have gone through the Tommy John process," Preller said. "Knowing him, his work ethic, I would anticipate him doing well and really progress in his career. It's just going to be a slight detour."

In parts of two Minor League seasons, Espinoza has posted a 3.35 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. As one of the youngest players in the Midwest League last season, he posted a 4.73 ERA in eight appearances for Fort Wayne.

The Padres are hopeful that Espinoza takes a return path similar to that of fellow righty prospect Chris Paddack. A year ago, the Padres traded for Paddack as part of the deal that sent Fernando Rodney to Miami. He was diagnosed with a UCL tear shortly thereafter and underwent Tommy John surgery. Paddack has recently begun throwing bullpen sessions again, and the Padres are hopeful he'll be ready for instructional ball in September.

"Each guy's a little different," Preller said. "You're looking at at least a year. ... Obviously with his age, there's no need to rush back. But hopefully a year from now, we're talking about a possible return."

The surgery will be performed by Dr. Keith Meister, though no date has been set.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Anderson Espinoza