For the most part, the Brewers have had good luck when it comes to avoiding elbow injuries to their young pitchers. While they haven’t produced many high-ceiling talents, the Brewers’ minor league system has consistently churned out durable, dependable starters.
Unfortunately, it appears that luck may have run out — Johnny Hellweg, who left his start Sunday after just 3.2 innings, has a tear in his pitching elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament. While the Brewers aren’t saying yet whether it’s a partial or complete tear, a tear in the UCL usually means Tommy John surgery and a year out of action. The 6’9″ righty still has another appointment with Dr. James Andrews, at which point the prognosis and decision on surgery will likely be made official.
Missing a full calendar year hurts any pitcher, but it may be especially troublesome for Hellweg, who was already in his age-25 season and still struggling with his control. In 20 innings for Nashville this season, Hellweg walked 15 batters, hit 2 more and uncorked a wild pitch. By the time Hellweg can get back on the mound, he’ll be 26 and a year removed from whatever progress he’s made in his mechanics. It’ll be a long road just to get his control back to this point. The Brewers may be forced to finally give up on the idea of Hellweg as a starter once (or if — recovery is no guarantee, just ask Daniel Hudson) he returns.
Hellweg is not the only pitching prospect in the NL Central headed for a long recovery time. Pirates top prospect Jameson Taillon went under the knife earlier this month. In the majors, a slew of other young pitchers have had to undergo Tommy John, most recently New York’s Ivan Nova and Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore. The Braves lost 2/5 of their starting rotation — Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen — to the procedure this spring.