Oakland Athletics’ projected 2014 Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker never had the opportunity to take the mound that April. He incurred an elbow injury during spring training that resulted in his second Tommy John surgery (TJS). Two years later, Parker still has yet to start in an MLB game since landing on the disabled list back in 2014 and he will now go under the knife once again for his third TJS next week on April 1, 2016. There is hope that this surgery will fix the damage that two elbow fractures caused this past year.
Parker’s surgery will be completed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, an orthopedist who is known for his unique techniques when it comes to TJS. He has worked with other professional sports athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady. Parker and the A’s are hoping that Dr. ElAttrache will be able to heal Parker’s elbow completely – something previous surgeries have not been able to accomplish.
However, even if Dr. ElAttrache is able to perform the surgery on Parker’s elbow, there is still some question as to his ability to ever make a successful return as an MLB starter. Even this offseason, many were wondering if Parker would come back as a starter or a reliever due to the weakness of his elbow. Even though it will be another long road to recovery for Parker, he does have a few things working for him.
For one, Parker is optimistic and wants to pitch again at the major league level. Optimism is key to a successful recovery. Secondly, he is still quite young — only 27 years old. The older a person is, the harder it is to fully recover from a significant injury. Lastly, he has a lot of potential. One must not forget that he was a first round draft pick in 2007, had winning records in both 2012 and 2013 – the only two seasons he was a full time starting pitcher, and was pitching well during both of the rehab assignments prior to incurring both elbow fractures.
Ultimately, it is impossible to know if Parker will be able to make a successful comeback. No other pitcher in history has come back from three Tommy John surgeries and two elbow fractures. The length of Parker’s recovery will be key and it is expected that he will be out for an extended period of time. Fans and coaches will probably not know Parker’s comeback potential until 2017 or maybe even 2018.
It is hard to believe that it was three years ago that Parker set an A’s franchise record with nineteen consecutive starts without a loss. If he does return, it is likely that he will have not pitched in the big leagues for four or more consecutive seasons at that point. Everyone is rooting for Parker to make a successful comeback, but only time will tell if this will be possible.