Posted on April 27, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After being removed prematurely from his start on Sunday and quickly placed on the DL with pain in his forearm, Arizona Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller has been diagnosed with a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon. Miller has had his MRI results seen by three different doctors, including renown orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, and all three gave him the same diagnosis. He will now mull over his options for a few days before deciding his next move.
“News came back from all the doctors and I have a forearm flexor strain and a partial tear of my UCL,” Miller said Thursday. “So just kind of gathering all that and seeing where I’m going to go from there. Still haven’t made a decision on what I’m going to do yet. Just seeing all the options that are available and what scenarios are best for me and the team. Just kind of still processing it.”
Miller is just 26 years old, but he’s already had an eventful big league career after making his debut in the majors in 2012, a month before his 22nd birthday. He won 15 games in his first full big league season in 2013. He then posted an impressive 3.02 ERA in 2015 despite losing 17 games on a terrible team in Atlanta.
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HIs impressive track record early in his career made Miller the centerpiece in a blockbuster trade to the Diamondbacks last winter. However, last season, Miller fell flat on his face, going 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and being demoted back to the minors. Early this year, he showed signs of putting last year’s struggles behind him, only to be derailed by injury.
“It sucks,” Miller told reporters. “It’s not good news. You never want to be put in this kind of situation and never would you think that it would happen to you. It is what it is. It’s just one of those things that you can’t really control. I’m pretty torn up about not being able to pitch for a while.”
Most pitchers in Miller’s position would be heading for Tommy John surgery. However, Miller will consider alternatives such as platelet-rich plasma injections and stem cell therapy. Los Angeles Angels starter Garrett Richards passed on Tommy John last year in favor of stem cell therapy and he was able to have a normal spring training this year, although he has since been derailed by a biceps injury. Miller sounds like he is seriously considering alternatives to surgery.
“Never would I want to have to get that done,” Miller said of Tommy John surgery. “It’s just putting together what is best. How am I going to come back stronger? If I do other options, is there an opportunity where it might not work out and I’d eventually have to get it done? It’s not going to be an easy decision for me.”
Of course, Miller acknowledges that if he tries an alternative to surgery and it doesn’t work, he’ll need to get the surgery anyway and be even further behind. If he undergoes the surgery right now, Miller would likley miss the remainder of the year and a majority of next season. It’s also possible that the Diamondbacks will decline to tender him a contract for next season, leaving him without a team as he rehabs and works his way back in 2018. Even if he can avoid surgery, Miller still may not be able to return by the end of the season, leaving him between a rock and a hard place.
“It’s a tough decision,” Miller said. “It’s not going to be easy one way or the other. There’s a lot of uncertainty involved. You don’t really know. The biggest thing is to just make sure that we’re all on board with the same thing and make sure that we’re all comfortable and not making a mistake, basically, at the end of the day. That’s why this process has been taking so long.”