Johnson undergoes Tommy John surgery
MILWAUKEE -- Pitcher Josh Johnson was scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday, after an exam by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews this week showed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in Johnson's right elbow.
The procedure, done in Pensacola, Fla., was technically a revision of the UCL, said San Diego assistant general manager A.J. Hinch.
"We all feel badly about JJ," Hinch said.
Johnson has a history with Andrews, who did the cleanup surgery last October on Johnson's right elbow to remove bone spurs. In 2007, Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on Johnson, then a pitcher with the Marlins.
The Padres signed Johnson to a one-year deal for $8 million in November, with hopes he could rebuild his credentials and be a force in the starting rotation.
The Padres hold a club option of $4 million for 2015 since Johnson was unable to make seven starts -- risk protection given his health issues last season. San Diego will need to determine if it will exercise that option.
"We still have a lot of hurdles to clear before we make a decision on that," Hinch said.
Johnson was having a good spring, posting a 3.38 ERA in his four starts when he woke up with a swollen forearm after an outing in mid-March. He had an MRI thereafter that confirmed the strain in the flexor pronator muscles of his right forearm.
The Padres shut him down for several weeks before he started a rehabilitation program. He reported feeling good, but his throwing program essentially hit a wall and he needed a cortisone shot on April 2.
"We were certainly optimistic that he was going to be able to contribute, and he was pitching as well as anyone in Spring Training," Hinch said. "For the promise he showed in spring … I feel badly for him."
The Padres understood there would be some risk involved when they signed Johnson in November.
The Padres were hopeful that they were getting a proven arm for the rotation in Johnson, who led the National League in ERA (2.30) in 2010 and posted a 3.15 ERA in parts of eight seasons with the Marlins, with a combined WAR of 11 from 2009-10. He had a disastrous run with the Blue Jays last season, as he wasn't healthy, had a 6.20 ERA in 16 starts and didn't pitch after Aug. 6.
"We know that there's risk, but we're very excited about the upside about what he can bring," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said at the news conference to announce Johnson's signing.
San Diego manager Bud Black was disappointed to hear the news about Johnson's surgery.
"I'm frustrated for him; this is a tough one," Black said. "He was really looking forward to pitching for the Padres. It's really unfortunate. He thought he was ready to go and set for the season."
The Padres are certainly no stranger to Tommy John surgery.
Left-handed pitcher Cory Luebke had a second Tommy John surgery in March. He missed all of 2013, and he'll miss all of this season as well. Right-hander Casey Kelly, who had Tommy John surgery last April, is nearing a return. Joe Wieland, who had the same procedure in 2012, could resume his throwing program next month after he had surgery in March to remove scar tissue in his right elbow.