Sep 5, 2015, 5:59 PM EDT
Just two days removed from having Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews, Aaron Barrett strolled into the clubhouse at Nationals Park on Satuday sporting a cast held up by a large sling over his right shoulder. Barrett was in good spirits despite the fact his procedure was much more intensive than the team originally thought it would be.
Barrett, in fact, also had bone chips removed and a large bone spur on his elbow shaved down. That was all in addition to having his ulnar collateral ligament replaced.
“It stinks, obviously,” Barrett said. “But I know the return rate is good. I was in good care with Dr. Andrews and I know that I’m going to come back even stronger.”
“There was a lot of loose bodies in there that they were able to get out and fix it up,” manager Matt Williams said. “He’s anxious to get to his therapy and to his rehab and get back as quickly as possible.”
Barrett, 27, is in the early stages of a 12 to 18 month recovery. He is already doing grip and shoulder exercises. He gets the sling off on Wednesday and will then wear a brace for three to six months. Once he gets the splint put on, he will begin range of motion exercises.
Barrett will hope to return to the Nationals’ bullpen next September. It’s a long road back, but Barrett doesn’t have to look far for advice and encouragement from those who have been through it before.
“I actually talked to Drew [Storen], who had bone chips before, and Stephen [Strasburg], he’s had it. Obviously, we have a couple other guys like [Matt] Thornton and [Jordan Zimmermann] and Stras who all had Tommy John before. I actually got on the phone with [Cubs reliever] Jason Motte, who apparently had something very similar to my diagnosis,” he explained.
Barrett dealt with arm injuries for much of the season before eventually going under the knife after receiving opinions from three different doctors. He first landed on the disabled list on June 12 with a right bicep strain. He would return to pitch 10 outings before going back on the DL with a right elbow strain.
Barrett had been pitching through pain before he went down the second time. On Saturday, he himself was amazed that he was able to keep playing despite all that was going on inside of his arm.
“It’s kind of surprising that what I had in there and I was still able to somewhat throw the ball over the plate,” he said. “To look back on what I had in my elbow at the time and continuing to pitch through it, it kind of shocks me a little bit. I probably shouldn’t have been doing that, but that’s just kind of the way I am. I wanted to win. I wanted to help this team win a championship and unfortunately I’m not going to be able to do that down the stretch.”
Barrett’s last outing of three earned runs in a third of an inning against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 5 was one that raised red flags within the organization. He was promptly sent to Triple-A after that game and it was then determined he had a potentially serious injury.
Barrett – whose season ends with a 4.60 ERA in 40 games – says it wasn’t one outing or one throw that did him in.
“The diagnosis was that it looked like something had been going on for quite some time. I don’t think something specific happened in a game. Just kind of over the wear of the season it continued to get worse. Every reliever has something going on. We all have nicks and pains that, it’s a long season, you know? I was trying to grind through it the way I have with other stuff before. Unfortunately it turned out to be a lot worse than we all wanted it to be,” he said.
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