Surgery advised for Fernandez's 'significant tear'
Recovery time for procedure is 12-18 months; Marlins' ace weighing options
LOS ANGELES -- The Marlins braced for the bad news for a few days. On Tuesday night, the organization's fears became reality when the club announced ace Jose Fernandez has a right ulnar collateral ligament tear and season-ending surgery has been recommended.
Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Fernandez has a "significant tear" in his right elbow.
As of now, Fernandez is discussing his options. It appears he will have Tommy John surgery relatively soon. It's a matter of exactly when.
"The sooner we can get a decision, the sooner we can get surgery set up and get it taken care of," Hill said. "It was confirmed there is a tear in the elbow, and surgery has been recommended. Jose is visiting with his family on his options and what he wants to do and when he wants to do it."
When it comes to who would perform the Tommy John procedure, Fernandez has three options: Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers' lead team physician, in Los Angeles; Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.; or Dr. Lee Kaplan, the Marlins' physician.
"He is considering all options," Hill said.
Recovery time for Tommy John surgery is typically 12-18 months, so the earliest Fernandez could return is next May or June.
On Monday, an MRI exam taken in L.A. revealed the ligament tear, and Fernandez was placed on the 15-day disabled list. On Tuesday, Fernandez returned to Miami, where he was examined by Kaplan.
"From what our doctor saw, they did not want to go the rehab route," Hill said. "Surgery was the best option, and that was the recommendation."
Moving on without Fernandez is about to begin. It will be a tough road because the ace is so dynamic, and he's developed into a fan favorite and one of the game's top pitchers.
"He's a big part of this organization," Hill said. "Obviously, we're built around our pitching, and he was a big part of that. That's the reason why we've tried to build depth. This will be an opportunity for someone to step up. You can't replace him, but hopefully we can have someone step up and give us a quality start every fifth day."
The team announced Anthony DeSclafani will be called up from Double-A Jacksonville on Wednesday, and he will make his MLB debut in the series finale with the Dodgers.
The 24-year-old right-hander, acquired from Toronto after the 2012 season, attended the University of Florida.
DeSclafani, the Marlins' sixth-best prospect according to MLB.com, was 3-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 43 innings over eight starts at Jacksonville. The Suns' Opening Day starter struck out 38 and walked 10.
"He's one of our top pitching prospects," Hill said. "We feel like, as a college pitcher, he won't be afraid of this environment, and he will give us a chance to win a game tomorrow."
DeSclafani will have his contract selected, because he is not yet on the 40-man roster. The team has one roster space available. But to make room for the right-hander, someone will have to come off the active roster before Wednesday night.
Fernandez, one of the faces of the Marlins, is coping with the first serious arm issue of his life.
"Like any 21-year-old kid who hasn't ever had an injury or been hurt, it's tough," manager Mike Redmond said. "I'm sure he feels like he's let his team down because he got hurt. And all the things that come with the type of competitor that he is. All we really want is for him to be OK and concentrate on getting healthy and coming back to the ballclub. That's the important thing."
Known for throwing hard and having a clean delivery, the first sign that something was wrong came on Friday night at San Diego. In five-plus innings, Fernandez gave up six runs, five earned. Jedd Gyorko belted two homers off Fernandez that night, including a grand slam.
In the outing, Fernandez's fastball maxed at 97 mph. But his velocity dipped as the game progressed. After the game, it was revealed that Fernandez was dealing with an upset stomach, which he said had something to do with what he ate. The Miami ace admitted to throwing up in a trash can in the tunnel behind the dugout in the top of the first inning.
At first, it was believed the dip in velocity was due to being under the weather. By late Friday night, speculation was building that Fernandez may have been injured. On deck prior to one of his at-bats, he was seen loosening up his right forearm.
When asked on Saturday if his arm was healthy, Fernandez insisted it was. Regarding loosening up his forearm, he added that he regularly does that to try to stay warm.
Internally, Fernandez informed the club that he had discomfort in his elbow. Instead of throwing his regular between-starts bullpen session on Sunday in San Diego, the Marlins already had made plans for their ace to be examined in Los Angeles.
Being without Fernandez is devastating to the Marlins and another blow to MLB, which is now without another of its promising young stars.
The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner has been an inspiring story. His personal saga of defecting from Cuba at age 15 and becoming a big league All-Star five years later has been well documented.
Any thoughts of a sophomore jinx were being put to rest early, as Fernandez was named NL Pitcher of the Month for April. Now, his season may be over after eight starts and a 4-2 record with a 2.44 ERA in 51 2/3 innings. His 70 strikeouts were the most in the Majors at the time he went on the DL.
"You're talking about a kid who pitched with such enthusiasm and passion," Hill said. "His passion for the game was infectious. The smile, the competitiveness, it was infectious. Now we're going to need to focus that energy to the rehab process, and hopefully get him back sooner rather than later."