Bad news for the A’s: Starter A.J. Griffin is heading to Houston to get a second opinion on his injured elbow. It’s an ominous turn of events for a club that’s already dealing with the loss of Jarrod Parker in the rotation.
Griffin, who’s yet to take the mound this season because of a flexor muscle strain, was shut down five weeks ago and began throwing in the past few days. The session did not go as well as he’d hoped, though. Because flexor tendinitis is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery, Tommy John now seems like a strong possibility for the 26-year-old righthander. Last year, in his first full season, was 14-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 200 innings.
This is becoming an all too familiar story in 2014. The news about Griffin came on the same day Ivan Nova and Josh Johnson joined the list of pitchers who’ll sit out the entire year because of Tommy John surgery. On Thursday, Johnson underwent the procedure for the second time in his career, and the Yankees announced Nova would go under the knife next week. 2014 is already looking like it’ll be a record year for Tommy John surgeries — in 2012, there were a record number 36. We’re still in April, and Johnson was the 14th player to undergo the procedure this year. Nova, who will be No. 15 next week, will join a list that includes Brandon Beachy (Braves) Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks), Luke Hochevar (Royals), Kris Medlen (Braves), and Parker.
Through the first four weeks of the season, the A’s have looked like the best team in the league, with a 14-8 record after Thursday’s games and the best run differential in the majors at +36. Despite no Parker or Griffin, they continue to get excellent starting pitching. Oakland crushed Houston 10-1 behind six strong innings from Scott Kazmir on Thursday night. It is, though, a long season, and the A’s surely would have benefitted from the pitching depth a healthy Parker and Griffin would have provided. There’s still a chance Griffin avoids surgery and rejoins the rotation later this year. But the A’s must prepare for the possibility Griffin will not pitch again in 2014, and instead will join a list that continues to grow at a disturbing rate.