Darvish has bone spur in right elbow: 'Relief in a sense'

Right-hander avoids significant damage but will be shut down temporarily

September 1st, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- Padres right-hander has a bone spur in his right elbow, recent tests revealed -- a blow to Darvish’s chances of returning this season but, all things considered, positive news for the Padres as it appears Darvish has avoided any significant damage.

“There’s some relief in a sense that there’s nothing going on with the ligament,” Darvish said Thursday afternoon through interpreter Shingo Horie.

Darvish received a cortisone injection and will be shut down temporarily, manager Bob Melvin said. It’s possible he pitches again this season if his elbow responds to the cortisone shot. But the Padres are approaching the point where they’ll have to ask whether it’s prudent to push for Darvish to return at all.

With Thursday night’s series-opening 7-2 loss to the Giants at Petco Park, San Diego currently sits 8 1/2 games out of the final National League playoff spot with 27 to play. The Padres committed a season-high-tying three errors and allowed five unearned runs, as they continue to head in the wrong direction.

Nonetheless, Darvish intends to at least make an attempt to come back. He plans to begin playing catch after a short rest period of a few days, provided his elbow feels OK.

“It’s my job to go out there,” Darvish said. “I’m being paid to go out there and pitch. I feel like it may be disrespectful, in a way, if I don’t try to come back up. At the end of the day, if I can’t come back, that’s that. But we’ll see how it goes.”

Darvish landed on the injured list on Monday with inflammation in his elbow, and he flew to Texas to be examined by Dr. Keith Meister. Darvish had previously missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and much of the ‘18 season with a stress reaction in his elbow.

He didn’t rule out the possibility of an offseason cleanup operation to shave the spur down or take it out. But he also expressed caution that doing so might make his elbow too loose, potentially portending future issues. It’s still not entirely clear whether the spur is the root cause of the inflammation that sidelined him after his start last Friday against the Brewers.

“That’s what we don’t know,” Darvish said.

In 24 starts, Darvish has posted a 4.56 ERA this season, his most inconsistent season since joining the Padres. He acknowledged recently that he’s been dealing with some elbow trouble for much of the summer, but after his start last Friday in Milwaukee, the inflammation and discomfort was such that he needed to be placed on the IL.

Darvish, 37, missed two weeks in late June with an illness, and he lost a significant amount of weight. He guessed that some of his elbow discomfort may have emerged as he ramped back up without being at full strength.

The Padres are currently without Darvish and right-hander Joe Musgrove, who recently began playing catch after he was shut down for four weeks with inflammation in his right shoulder capsule. Musgrove, too, is a candidate to be shut down for the year if the Padres’ season doesn’t turn in a big way.

On the roster in place of Musgrove and Darvish are Pedro Avila and Matt Waldron, who combined to cover eight innings Thursday. To their credit, both were solid, allowing only one earned run each, though Avila was let down by his defense in a big way in a six-run third.

“About as bad as we’ve played,” Melvin said of the early sloppiness. “We don’t hurt ourselves defensively too much, and we put Pedro in a bad spot.”

In addition to the Musgrove and Darvish injuries, infielder Jake Cronenworth suffered a right wrist fracture after he was hit by a pitch in the same game in Milwaukee that sidelined Darvish. Righty reliever Steven Wilson recently landed on the IL, too, with left hip inflammation, and fellow right-hander Robert Suarez began serving his 10-game suspension for violating the MLB's foreign substance policy after he dropped his appeal on Friday.

A week ago, the underperforming Padres could still see a path toward contention. But they needed just about everything to break their way over the season’s final month to make a playoff push. Instead, they’ve gone 1-6 in that span, having lost a number of important contributors along the way.

“Unfortunately we’re having a tough season,” Melvin said. “And now we’re having some injuries on top of it to some key guys, so that doesn’t help.”