deGrom to have surgery on torn UCL in right elbow

June 6th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- Fighting through tears as he addressed the media on Tuesday evening, Jacob deGrom expressed his frustration with his unfortunate situation.

deGrom's Rangers tenure was dealt a significant blow on Tuesday with the announcement that the two-time Cy Young Award winner will undergo surgery to repair a tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. Rangers GM Chris Young didn't specify if the procedure will be reconstructive Tommy John surgery or another surgery, but either way, the celebrated right-hander is done for the season.

Team physician Dr. Keith Meister will perform the surgery.

“Anytime you get told you’re not gonna be able to be out there for a little while, it's tough,” deGrom said. “I went through this before and know what it takes to get back, so that’s the goal. To go out there and rehab the best I can and be around to help any way I can. We’ve got a special group here and to not be able to be out there and help them win, it stinks.”

The 34-year-old deGrom underwent Tommy John surgery once before, following his debut season as a professional in 2010.

deGrom, who signed a five-year, $185 million deal with Texas in December, made six starts this season before being placed on the IL with right elbow inflammation. On Monday, the Rangers transferred him to the 60-day IL after saying his recovery was taking longer than expected.

deGrom said that his recovery over the last month had been a bit of a “roller coaster.”

“It was just like, I would have days where I feel really good and [ones where] I didn't feel great,” he said. “I would throw one bullpen and I was like, ‘OK, I think I'm moving in the right direction.’ And the next day I didn't feel great. And I was like, ‘Alright, this is acting really weird.’ It was just so up and down, I didn't know really.”

The right-hander last threw a bullpen when the team was in Detroit on May 31, but he then returned home to Florida for the birth of his third child and did not throw while away from the team. As was the initial plan, he underwent further screenings upon his return to Texas on Monday.

Young said the result of the MRI obviously did not show the progress they were hoping for, and instead doctors identified damage to the ligament that was not present after the initial scans in April.

“It's obviously a tough blow for Jacob, and certainly for the Rangers, but we do feel this is what is right for Jacob in his career,” Young said. “We're confident he’ll make a full recovery and it's unfortunate the way things have gone but nonetheless, we now have clarity and can move forward and have him back sometime by the end of next season, but no promises on the timetable. “

The righty posted a 2.67 ERA with 45 strikeouts against four walks this season before landing on the IL. 

The news comes amid a historically strong start for the AL West-leading Rangers, whose 39-20 record is second in the Majors to only the Rays, and the rotation has held steady with a 2.74 ERA in deGrom’s absence (since April 29).  

“You want to be out there and like I said, we’ve got a special group,” deGrom said. “I love being around these guys and that's where you feel like a letdown. You’re letting those guys down. But Dane [Dunning] has stepped up and done a great job and the pitching staff has been unbelievable.  I just have to be here and root them on. That's all I can do.”

On Monday, Young described deGrom as “captivating” and the “best in the world” when healthy. That much is obviously true.

The modern version of deGrom was born in 2018, when he increased his average fastball velocity to a career-high 96 mph, then used his augmented skill set to produce a 1.70 ERA in 32 starts en route to his first Cy Young Award. A year later, amidst another velocity bump, deGrom produced a 2.43 ERA to win another Cy.

For a while, the success was sustainable; from 2018-21, deGrom posted a 1.94 ERA with an average of 12 strikeouts per nine innings, in what was perhaps the most dominant multi-year performance by any pitcher of this generation. He routinely hit triple digits on the radar gun over that stretch, topping out at 102 mph.

But deGrom, who has not pitched a full Major League season since 2019, began dealing with minor back and arm troubles in 2020, then a bout of elbow inflammation knocked him out for the entire second half of the 2021 season. The following spring, deGrom suffered a stress reaction in his right scapula, which sidelined him until the early days of August. 

Now, his Rangers tenure begins with similar issues. 

“As I said, it stinks,” deGrom reiterated. “You want to be out there. It's just not ideal, but I'm gonna set a goal to try to be back next year towards the end of the year. So I’m gonna work towards that and hopefully we're in a playoff run next year but the most important thing is this year and these guys that we have. Like I said, it's a special group and I want to be here rooting them on.”