Strider reveals bone fragment caused season-ending surgery

April 19th, 2024

ATLANTA -- views his season-ending elbow injury as just a part of his unique journey.

“This isn’t a pause,” Strider said. “It’s just what it is. It’s part of my life. There’s always an uncontrollable element to injuries and to the game. That’s what makes the game so cool. You’ve got to embrace it and make the most of it.”

Strider was wearing an arm brace as he spoke to reporters before Friday night’s game against the Rangers. Dr. Keith Meister repaired Strider’s damaged right ulnar collateral ligament by inserting an internal brace last week. The Braves' hurler might be pitching again early next season.

Because the ligament didn’t have a significant tear, Strider didn’t have to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time since he was at Clemson in 2019. That procedure would have likely sidelined him through next year’s All-Star break.

“They got in there and the ligament tissue was surprisingly good,” Strider said.

Strider’s latest ailment wasn’t caused by high velocity, max effort, the addition of a curveball or any of the countless other opinions offered over the past couple of weeks. His ligament was compromised by the unavoidable development of a bone fragment.

So, when Strider returns, he will aim to be the same high-energy competitor who spent the past two years establishing himself as one of the game’s most electric pitchers. He led MLB with 483 strikeouts from 2022-23. Gerrit Cole ranked second with the 479 strikeouts he tallied in 91 1/3 more innings.

Dialing down isn’t something Strider is even thinking about right now.

“If you want to win a race, you want a Ferrari,” Strider said. “That’s where the state of the game is now, teams are looking for Ferraris, and they are hard to maintain.”

Speculation has swirled over the past couple of weeks regarding what necessitated Strider to undergo a significant right elbow surgery for the second time in four years. But it seems like this was an unavoidable development.

Meister found that a bone fragment had developed in Strider’s ulnar collateral ligament since it had been repaired by Tommy John surgery in 2019. Strider was told he might have been pitching with this fragment in his ligament for at least a couple of years.

Strider felt discomfort during the second half of Spring Training. But he was able to continue pitching effectively until April 5, when he gutted his way through four ineffective innings against the D-backs. This might have been the night he tore the connective tissue located between the fragment and his humerus.

“That’s what destabilized the ligament,” Strider said. “Maybe I blew through the last of that game. Things deteriorated pretty quickly.”

Strider tallied 35 strikeouts and allowed just two runs over 22 2/3 innings during Spring Training. The Phillies whiffed with 13 of 19 swings against the breaking balls he threw during a solid Opening Day start -- five innings and two runs. So, there really weren’t any obvious signs of concern before the April 5 start against Arizona.

Strider induced just 12 whiffs during his 88-pitch outing against the D-backs. This is his sixth-lowest total during an 80-plus pitch outing. But the real concern developed when the pitcher went to the clubhouse and told the medical staff his discomfort was more significant than it had been.

The bone fragment caused the X-rays to be difficult to read. The imaging made it look like Strider might have fractured his humerus bone. But this is an injury that creates incredible pain. So, the Braves waited to view an MRI exam performed the next day.

Again, the fragment’s position made it difficult to clearly see the damage. Meister didn’t clearly see the damage until he performed the surgery on April 12. The uncertainty is why, before the surgery was completed, the Braves didn’t provide any specifics beyond acknowledging the UCL was damaged.

Strider’s presence in the rotation will be missed. But he plans to stay around the team throughout the season.

“These guys don’t need me to win the World Series,” Strider said. “They’re going to pursue that journey and I’ll be here to cheer them on.”