UNITED STATES NEWS

Jacob deGrom, oft-injured Rangers ace, to have season-ending right elbow surgery

Jun 6, 2023, 2:12 PM | Updated: 5:21 pm

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas ace Jacob deGrom will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, cutting short his first season with the AL West-leading Rangers after the oft-injured pitcher signed a $185 million, five-year contract.

“We’ve got a special group here and to not be able to be out there and help them win, that stinks,” deGrom said, pausing several times with tears in his eyes. “Wanting to be out there and helping the team, it’s a disappointment.”

General manager Chris Young said Tuesday the decision on surgery came after an MRI on deGrom’s ailing right elbow, but the extent of what is required might not be determined until the operation is performed next week.

Tommy John surgery in which the damaged ligament is replaced is often needed to fix a torn UCL, but Young and the Rangers didn’t go as far as saying the pitcher would have that particular procedure. After being drafted by the New York Mets in 2010, deGrom made six starts in the minors that summer before needing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011, three years before his big league debut.

The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner hasn’t pitched since April 28 against the New York Yankees, when he exited early because of injury concerns for the second time in a span of three starts. The announcement about surgery came a day after deGrom was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Young said the latest MRI showed more inflammation and significant structural damage in the ligament that wasn’t there on the scan after deGrom left the game against the Yankees.

“The results of that MRI show that we have not made progress. And in fact, we’ve identified some damage to the ligament,” Young said. “It’s obviously a tough blow for Jacob, for certainly the Rangers. But we do feel this is what is right for Jacob in his career. We’re confident he’ll make a full recovery.”

Young and deGrom, who turns 35 later this month, said the goal is for the pitcher to return near the end of next season. Both said they were glad to have clarity on what was wrong with the elbow.

Texas has won all six games started by deGrom (2-0), but the right-hander has pitched only 30 1/3 innings. He has a 2.67 ERA with 45 strikeouts and four walks. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees in his last start before leaving that game because of discomfort in his arm.

Before going home to Florida over the weekend for the birth of his third child, deGrom threw his fifth bullpen last Wednesday in Detroit.

“I’d have days where I’d feel really good, days where I didn’t feel great. So I was kind of riding a roller coaster there for a little bit,” deGrom said. “They said originally there, we just saw some inflammation. … Getting an MRI right after you pitch, I feel like anybody would have inflammation. So, you know, I was hoping that that would get out of there and I would be fine. But it just didn’t work out that way.”

The Rangers signed deGrom in free agency after he spent his first nine big league seasons with the Mets. He was limited by injuries to 156 1/3 innings over 26 starts during his last two years in New York.

DeGrom had a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021 before missing the final three months of the season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow.

The four-time All-Star didn’t make his first big league start last year until Aug. 2 after being shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.

His latest injury almost surely will trigger a conditional option for Texas on deGrom’s contract in 2028.

The option takes effect if deGrom has Tommy John surgery on his right elbow from 2023-26 or has any right elbow or shoulder injury that causes him to be on the injured list for any period of 130 consecutive days during any season or 186 days in a row during any service period.

The conditional option would be for $30 million if deGrom finishes among the top five in Cy Young Award voting during the contract or pitches at least 625 innings. The option price would increase to $37 million if he finishes among the top five three times or more or pitches at least 725 innings. If he falls short of those specifications, the conditional option price would be $20 million.

DeGrom’s conditional option would be triggered at $37 million if the conditional team option doesn’t get met, he pitches at least 160 innings in 2027 and finishes among the top five in Cy Young Award voting, and an independent doctor examines him and determines he is more likely than not to be healthy for the start of the 2028 season.

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Jacob deGrom, oft-injured Rangers ace, to have season-ending right elbow surgery