Dunn frustrated by 'unsettling' shoulder setback

February 26th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Based on how well he felt throwing in the offseason, Reds right-handed pitcher had every reason to think his shoulder issues were finally behind him and that he could challenge for a 2023 rotation spot. 

But the shoulder soreness returned last week and shut down Dunn from throwing in camp. An MRI exam revealed a strain in his right subscapularis, the same muscle in the rotator cuff that was injured in 2021 and '22. 

“Luckily, it’s not as bad. But it’s one of those things, frankly, that I’m pretty freaking tired of this process. I want to be healthy," Dunn said on Sunday. "We all want answers as to why this is going on. I did too well this offseason. I was feeling great. Honestly, I was at a point where I was throwing harder than I had in a long time and was starting to feel like myself. For a flare-up to come out of nowhere was uneasy and it was unsettling.”

Dunn is scheduled to fly to New York this week to be examined by orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Altchek.

When the Reds acquired Dunn in the March 14, 2022, trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Mariners, they were aware the right-hander was still dealing with his 2021 shoulder injury. But the club liked his upside and was confident he could get beyond his issues.

"I just want to pitch. I thank the Cincinnati Reds wholeheartedly for believing in me and sticking with me through this process and trying to help me find answers," Dunn said. "I don’t think they’ve seen the kid they’ve traded for. I don’t think really anyone has seen the kid they’ve traded for and that’s my first and foremost goal. I want to do everything I can in my power to show them that the kid they traded for is pretty freaking good.”

Dunn, 27, made his Reds debut on Aug. 8 vs. the Mets at Citi Field and was 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA in seven starts. From mid-September, he finished the season on the injured list with right shoulder tightness. 

Dunn is expected to miss most, if not all, of the rest of camp. Without him in the mix, Connor Overton, Luis Cessa, Luke Weaver, Brandon Williamson and Levi Stoudt are in the competition for the final two spots in Cincinnati's rotation. 

“I know that when I’m healthy, I can pitch at this level consistently," Dunn said. "It’s time for me to get healthy.”

More items from Reds camp on Sunday

• Manager David Bell said that center fielder Nick Senzel was not close to playing in any spring games. Senzel's offseason progress was delayed by surgery on his left big toe after he broke it in September during a wall collision. 

"I think it’s going to be the middle of March when he’s into games. So we’re still a little ways away," Bell said. 

• With scheduled to start on Monday vs. the Rangers and slated for Tuesday against the Dodgers, it lines up for them to pitch again on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, vs. the A's in the split-squad games at Las Vegas.

• Bell will remain in Arizona while the other half of the team is playing in Las Vegas. Bench coach Freddie Benavides will manage the games against Oakland.

• During Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Guardians, second baseman made two headfirst slides in the first inning -- one while stealing third base and then scoring on Wil Myers' sacrifice fly. Bell didn't mind seeing India take risks while hustling in a spring game. 

"People don’t like to see it. I 100% understand why," Bell said. "For me, I get very hesitant to try to limit players and try to plant any doubt in their mind. I just feel like you have to be aggressive playing this game and your instincts have to take over. I slid headfirst into home plate all the time. I’m not saying it’s the right way to do it, the best way or the smartest way, but sometimes you avoid injury the best by not having any fear."