Initial fears about Chris Narveson’s torn rotator cuff have proved to be true — the Brewers’ left-hander needs surgery and will miss the rest of the 2012 season.
News of Narveson’s injury broke last Friday, but the fate of his season was up in the air, pending a second opinion. According to reporters, the second opinion was the same as the first: surgery is needed, and it’s a 6-9 month rehab.
Narveson said he felt a different kind of soreness following his start in Atlanta on April 15. When the soreness didn’t subside after a couple of days, that’s when he knew something wasn’t right.
A 2007 article from MLB.com detailed the repair procedure, and why it’s more difficult to come back from a torn rotator cuff than Tommy John surgery:
“Rotator cuff surgery is trying to repair a frayed tendon, comparable to sewing a small hole together or sewing a large hole together with shades of gray in between,” said Dr. David Lintner, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist as well as head team physician for the Houston Astros. “The main task with Tommy John surgery [is] you are reconnecting a cable or tendon. With the rotator cuff, you’re talking about the shoulder and repairing a muscle and a tendon. But it’s more than just repairing it, you have to be able to repair the muscle and yet have it be extremely flexible.”
The article also contains a list of players who were rehabbing rotator cuff injuries at the time, and it’s not one that inspires a lot of confidence: Pedro Martinez, Mark Mulder, Matt Clement, Kris Benson, Jesse Crain, Cliff Politte and Joey Eischen. While a torn rotator cuff isn’t a death sentence for a career, it is very hard — and unlikely — for a pitcher to return to the level he was at before the injury. When you’re talking about a pitcher like Narveson, who was a 5th-starter type before the injury, that’s not very good news.
If there is hope, it’s that every injury is a bit different. Perhaps Narveson’s rehab goes well and he can be ready to contribute by the time camp opens next year. In the meantime, the Brewers will have to think about a long-term replacement. Marco Estrada has fared well as a spot starter over the past couple seasons, but could he maintain that success and give the team Narveson-type production over a full year?