Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher David Hernandez rejoined the team Thursday, following a successful Tommy John surgery in Florida, which repaired the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
The tear, which was initially discovered just a week ago during a precautionary MRI seeking to diagnose the discomfort felt in his elbow during spring training and clear him for the regular season. Neither the Diamondbacks nor Hernandez expected to encounter what they did when they ran the scan.
“Just stunned,” Hernandez said of his emotions after the tear was found. “I felt like I was blindsided.”
Hernandez was plotting a rebound season, following a rocky 2013 campaign filled with on-the-field and off-the-field ups and downs.
Prior to a longer-than-planned trip to Triple-A Reno last August, Hernandez had compiled a 5.59 ERA, six losses and five blown saves. Over the offseason, he opened up about his personal life and pointed to his problems there for much of his struggles on the mound in 2013.
And he reported to Salt River Fields rejuvenated, ultimately recording a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 Cactus League innings pitched. The Diamondbacks intended to slide him back into his signature eighth-inning setup role. Elbow discomfort crept in mid-spring, which Hernandez received treatment for, reducing it to nothing short of regular soreness. And after two weeks of coping with that, Hernandez felt that it was alleviating.
“I felt it getting better when we wanted to get in a precautionary MRI,” he explained.
So the revelation of a torn ligament was especially surprising.
Now that the shock of initial diagnosis has worn off, Hernandez is tasked with figuring out how to leap his latest comeback hurdle.
“Now I feel good, I’m on the road to recovery, I guess,” he told reporters, his right arm hanging in a sling.
In teammates Daniel Hudson, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery last summer, and Patrick Corbin, who himself received Tommy John surgery just two weeks ago, Hernandez has rehab comrades.
“I’m going to lean on them a lot,” Hernandez said of his support system.
“Whatever you see Patrick doing, I’m going to be doing a week later,” he joked.
A timetable for Hernandez’s return to pitching is unknown, though it is generally understood that a minimum of 12 months is need to rehabilitate a reconstructed UCL.