DeSclafani delayed by elbow soreness, but 'no concerns' about buildup

March 1st, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Anthony DeSclafani’s 2023 season was derailed due to a right elbow flexor strain, and his Spring Training buildup to ‘24 has hit a slight delay with a recurrence of soreness in the area, he and head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta said on Friday.

Though DeSclafani is the only member of the Twins’ projected Opening Day rotation not to have pitched in a Spring Training game, he and Paparesta expressed confidence that the veteran right-hander remains on track to be ready for the start of the regular season.

“I guess, coming back from something like that, it’s always expected something can happen like that,” DeSclafani said. “We got right on it. Just trying to be aggressive with treatment and all that stuff. It was, really, a couple of days down and got right back at it.”

He was already back in action on Friday, before the Twins’ 5-3 victory over the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium, when he threw a light bullpen session for his first action on the mound since he took several days of rest and treatment to alleviate the soreness that arose in his elbow following his second live session of spring, Parapesta said.

DeSclafani did not have any imaging done on his elbow and built back up with long toss following his rest period before testing it out on the mound on Friday. Following that session, he said he expected to throw another bullpen on Sunday before progressing to live hitters again sometime next week.

As to why DeSclafani did not undergo diagnostic imaging, Paparesta said they made that decision based on the pitcher’s own sense of the severity of the issue, given his familiarity with the elbow troubles that hampered him last season. There’s also indication that the soreness is in a different area from that of the flexor strain from last season.

“It wasn’t at the level of needing imaging,” DeSclafani said. “It was just more sore. I know you guys have heard it. You can never replicate the intensity you get when you get into [live bullpen sessions] and into games. I threw [live bullpen sessions] at home, but I’m indoors. I’m in New Jersey. It’s not on dirt and it’s not out against high-level athletes. If anything, I think it’s more expected.”

DeSclafani said he was “100 percent and ready to go” when he first arrived at camp at the start of Spring Training and underwent platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections last year after the elbow flexor strain sidelined him in July, when he owned a 4.88 ERA in 99 2/3 innings for the Giants, with additional time missed due to right shoulder fatigue. He also missed most of 2022 with ankle tendon issues.

He had started throwing at the start of October with what he described as a normal offseason of work and had been up to 94-95 mph with his fastball in live bullpen sessions this spring, according to Paparesta. There still appears to be enough time remaining in Spring Training for DeSclafani to build to a normal workload by Opening Day, barring any setbacks, though manager Rocco Baldelli indicated the Twins will be deliberate with the process.

“I'm still optimistic about him and about him pitching early in the year for us, but we're going to take the time to do it the right way,” Baldelli said. “We're going to make sure that we take care of him and then we ramp him up. It's clearly not going to be an ultra-aggressive ramp-up.”

The Twins acquired DeSclafani as part of the return in the offseason trade that sent Jorge Polanco to the Mariners with the hope that he could bounce back from the two years of injuries and bolster the rotation depth ahead of Louie Varland, who would be the first one in line to fill a rotation spot in the event of any injury.

Rotation depth was a significant reason why the Twins led the American League in WAR by starting pitchers last season, per FanGraphs, and there’s less of it in the fold this season due to the departures of Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle in free agency. Beyond Varland, the Twins could hope for continued improvement from prospects David Festa and Matt Canterino, among others.

For now, DeSclafani and Paparesta don’t have reason to believe that depth has yet taken a hit -- but he’ll be under closer scrutiny as he builds back up.

“I think it’s going to still be a normal buildup,” DeSclafani said. “Obviously, it won’t be as many Spring Training games, but from what we talked about, pretty confident we can get to a good threshold each game. I have no concerns.”