Antone 'going to go for it' in comeback from 3rd elbow surgery

April 9th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- doesn't just want to come back again from another major elbow surgery. The Reds reliever is determined that he will.

Antone, who will undergo a surgical procedure on Friday performed by Reds orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tim Kremchek, had Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow in 2017 as a Minor Leaguer and again in ‘21 while in the big leagues.

"I think I have an opportunity and responsibility to do this not only for myself, but other kids out there dealing with this," Antone said on Tuesday. "The cool thing about baseball is [that] contracts are guaranteed. There’s kids out there in high school or in college, their careers are over and they don’t have the best medical attention in the world.

"I think I have an opportunity to be the person that makes it back from three. I know I have the perseverance. I know I have the work ethic. And with the team of medical experts that are around, like why not me?”

In his fourth appearance of the season, Antone threw one pitch in the sixth inning during Sunday's loss to the Mets when he felt something in his elbow. An MRI exam revealed his flexor mass tendon had torn completely off the bone and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.

It was a devastating moment for the 30-year-old Antone, who admitted to crying in the trainer's room after leaving the game.

“Sunday was a very, very tough day for me," he said. "There were other things that were going on outside of baseball, kind of some family issues. That, coupled with what happened on the field, was tough to swallow.

“It was a very abrupt change in my life.”

The list of Major League pitchers to return from three surgeries for torn UCL's is brief. It's Jonny Venters. That's it. Jason Isringhausen and former Reds ace Jose Rijo aren't recognized by Jon Roegele's oft-cited Tommy John surgery database because one of each pitcher's surgeries addressed a flexor tear and not a UCL tear.

Rays pitcher Drew Rasmussen is currently trying to come back from a third major elbow surgery done in 2023 after two previous Tommy John procedures.

Antone's upcoming procedure isn't quite another Tommy John surgery, but it will be similar. Instead of using tendons from the pitcher's own wrist to repair the UCL like in the first two procedures, Kremchek intends to insert an internal brace to hold it together.

That's what Rasmussen had done in his last procedure.

“Obviously, my tendons don’t work very well," said Antone, who will miss the rest of the 2024 season. He has a 2.47 ERA over 45 big league games since 2020.

As for the fully torn flexor tendon, perhaps that could be more beneficial over a partial tear.

“From my understanding, [Kremchek] is a little bit more optimistic about that because he’s able to re-attach the whole thing versus trying to fix a small part of it," Antone said.

Whether he stages a successful comeback or not, Antone plans to use his knowledge to help others. He already co-owns a baseball performance gym, Kova Sports, in Alvarado, Texas, with former Reds Minor Leaguer Jeremy Kivel, who is now the Mets’ rehab pitching coach.

“I’ll have some sort of market edge, a competitive edge with that," Antone said. "From my outlook on the game of baseball right now, there will be no stopping this [endemic] going on -- the tearing of UCL’s and elbow injuries. I fully believe a lot of it is around us and chasing velocity.

“I think the human body is only capable of so much. We’re playing every single day. We’re available every day. We’re throwing every day. When we’re out there, it’s maximum effort, it’s best pitch. We’re facing the best hitters in the world. It has to be the perfect location. There’s a lot of stress.

“When that [injury] happens, I want to be a resource for kids and a resource for other athletes going through it so they can come back stronger.”

When Antone made the Reds' Opening Day roster, he was emotional because of the work he put in to come back. His attempt to return from the second Tommy John surgery was cut short after five games last season because of elbow tendinitis.

Now, he will have to repeat the whole rehab process again.

"It’s going to take the whole village, it really is," Antone said. "This is going to be a war to get this done and it’s going to be tough but I’m going to go for it.”