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Hunter Greene Goes Down With UCL Sprain

What does this say about Cincinnati’s medical and training staff?

On Friday afternoon the Cincinnati Reds announced that Hunter Greene won’t be pitching for the remainder of the season with their Class A affiliate in Dayton due to a sprain of his UCL in his right elbow. Reds general manager Nick Krall explained that Greene, the second-overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft, will spend the remainder of the 2018 season in Goodyear, Arizona working out his elbow. Greene will work to strengthen his elbow at the Reds’ Spring Training facility in an effort to avoid undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The injury came to light after Green felt some discomfort following a bullpen session earlier in the week. The team doctor diagnosed the injury after Cincinnati’s number two prospect completed his pitching assignment. Krall is hopeful that Green will be ready to go in time for spring training in 2019.

The Reds have had success in avoiding Tommy John surgery for pitchers suffering similar UCL injuries. Most recently, Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani are both right-handed pitchers, like Greene. Lorenzen and DeSclafani both were able to avoid surgery and return to Majors in Cincinnati.

While Lorenzen only missed a few months, DeSclafani missed the better part two seasons. While this was initially diagnosed as tendinitis, DeSclafani was later diagnosed with a sprained UCL in the elbow. Some could argue that a misdiagnosis cost DeSclafani two seasons of his career, but on the flipside, others could argue the success of avoiding surgery for two of the team’s young pitchers.

The negative side will say how the number of injuries accrued over the past few years by Cincinnati players is enough to show a concern in the abilities of the medical and training staff. While injuries are part of the game, Cincinnati has put a number of players on the disabled list in some form or fashion already this year, including veteran pitcher Homer Bailey. Bailey was placed on the disabled list on June 2 with inflammation in his right knee. He returned to the team during the final days of July, even pitching an eight-inning complete game in a losing effort in Detroit on July 31.

Bailey pitched a final no-hitter of the 2012 season and the first no-hitter of the 2013 season before his 2014 season was cut short due to arm fatigue. His 2015 season was ended with more arm fatigue followed by a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. Bailey didn’t return to the mound for Cincinnati until July 31, 2016, more than one year following his previous MLB start. A surgery in February of 2017 to remove bone spurs in his right elbow set Bailey back on the shelf as he didn’t make his 2017 season debut until June 24, 2017.

Does this explain the plan of action for Hunter Greene now that he has been diagnosed with a sprained UCL? Bailey’s injury resulted in needing Tommy John surgery. Lorenzen and DeSclafani were able to avoid Tommy John surgery with a specific and specialized rehab and workout program. Interim Reds manager Jim Riggleman, along with Krall, thinks that Greene will be ready to go by Spring Training 2019 without surgery. However, if Tommy John surgery is required, Riggleman is optimistic in Greene being an effective member of the Reds organization in the future given that Greene is only 18 currently and has his whole career ahead of him still.

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