Bucs prospect Taillon opts for Tommy John surgery
Ranked No. 2 in organization, right-hander facing 12-18 month recovery
PITTSBURGH -- Jameson Taillon has elected to undergo Tommy John surgery after repeated examinations of his right elbow confirmed injury to the ulnar collateral ligament.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington referred to the condition of the ligament as "compromised, not ruptured," and called Taillon's decision for surgical repair "the best course of action."
"It's not ruptured. Not fully torn. But it's not a completely healthy ligament," Huntington said Sunday, nearly a week after Taillon began gathering further information after an initial MRI had shown the ligament to be "intact."
Taillon's surgery will be performed by Dr. David Altchek in New York. A date has not yet been set for the procedure, from which recovery typically takes 12-18 months.
"We fully support Jameson's decision, which he arrived at after we presented him with all kinds of information and after he talked with doctors," Huntington said. "And we look forward to getting him back on the mound."
Taillon, the club's No. 2 prospect, was shut down near the end of the Spring Training, when pain in the elbow awoke him in the middle of the night following a four-inning stint in a Minor League game at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Taillon got a second opinion Monday in Los Angeles upon being examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, then sought further input prior to arriving at the decision to have the operation.
"An outcome of the second opinion was the recommendation of a period of rest," Huntington said. "The symptoms did not subside. When there's a rupture, having the surgery is a no-brainer. But now we were in a gray area.
"We walked Jameson, his family and his representatives through it. We felt this was the best course of action getting back to full health, and staying healthy for a long time."
When presented with such chilling news -- losing a valuable arm for a year-and-a-half is never comfortable -- baseball executives such as Huntington typically rally around the modern frequency and recovery rate of Tommy John surgery.
"When 25 percent of the pitchers on Opening Day rosters in 2013 have had it, it's not the rarity it once was," Huntington said. "And a very small percentage don't come back."
Yet, there is always a person behind the statistics. On that level, it is a difficult process.
"It is not a bullet-proof solution, and we made sure everyone understood how hard this process can be. But Jameson will do everything in his power to come through it well," said Huntington, who conceded that the patience demanded by the process will not come naturally to the 22-year-old..
"He is a driven young man, from a family of achievers," the GM said. "But they are also going to help him understand the bigger picture, that getting back a month earlier and putting the next 10 years at risk is not the best way to go about it.
"We're looking at this as a long-term recovery process, for Jameson to be successful and to have the great Major League career we expect him to have."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.