A pair of elbow surgeries for Nats pitchers

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Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

A couple of notable elbow surgeries for the Nationals on Friday as reliever Henry Rodriguez, on the disabled list since Aug. 2, had loose bodies removed from his right elbow. Meanwhile, top 2012 draft pick Lucas Giolito, who only slipped to Washington at No. 16 because of concerns over a strained elbow ligament that later ruptured Aug. 14 during his first stint in the Gulf Coast League, underwent Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles.

“Henry’s procedure was similar to the one that [relief pitcher] Drew Storen had [in April],” Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He had a bone fragment, a bone spur, removed from his elbow. And they cleaned that up and he should rehab and be prepared for the beginning of spring training.”

Rodriguez, whose surgery was performed by Washington team doctor Wiemi Douoguih, hadn’t pitched since July 31. The flamethrower was excellent during spring training and in April, eventually earning the closer’s role for a time as the Nats sought to replace injured closer Drew Storen. Rodriguez pitched nine innings in April and allowed four hits. He did walk six – always a concern with him – but struck out 12 and allowed just two earned runs. Through his first 14 2/3 innings he gave up just four earned runs and had eight saves with two blown.

“They got a big, loose body out of there. There’s more damage in there so [Rodriguez has] been pitching with a lot of pain,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s big and strong and he’s just kind of hidden that. So some of his wildness – I mean he was letter perfect in the spring when he was fresh. And then the first month of the season nine saves. We knew he wasn’t perfect. He was still having some wildness, but from what the doc said the elbow was in a lot worse shape than he anticipated.

Again, not perfect, but a nice step forward for an electric arm capable of dominating opposing batters. But things took a turn for the worse in a 9-6 loss at Cincinnati on May 13. Rodriguez gave up four runs in that one on a grand slam by Joey Votto in the bottom of the ninth.

Rodriguez fell out of favor as his command disintegrated. His last save was May 16 in Pittsburgh. His ERA in May was 7.36. A right index finger injury sent him to the disabled list on June 7 with 14 walks and 23 strikeouts.

Rodriguez returned on July 3, but again struggled. He walked eight batters and struck out just eight in 8 1/3 innings and 11 appearances. His ERA that month was 7.56 and the team shut him down with what it called a strained lower back injury.

In 29 1/3 innings – 35 games total – Rodriguez had 10 wild pitches. Only three big-league pitchers – starters or relievers – had more. He finished with a 5.83 ERA with 22 walks and 31 strikeouts. His walks-hits per innings pitched was 1.40. He also gave up 19 hits, four of them for home runs. Rodriguez had the nine saves with two holds and three blown saves.

The Giolito news was no surprise. The organization knew he was a risk when it took him and that if rest and rehab didn’t work over the summer then Tommy John surgery was the next option. Dr. Lew Yocum, who performed the same surgery on ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg two years ago, did the same for Giolito. His recovery time will be the normal 12-to-18 months.

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner