The club announced yesterday that Jaime Garcia will have surgery on Friday.
Dr. Paletta will repair the labrum in his shoulder, as well as debride the rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
The club did not release any details about what was seen in Jaime's most recent consult with Dr. Paletta. The club did not say whether the tear in the labrum was worse, better, or about the same as it was last season. Neither did it specify whether any change was seen in his rotator cuff.
Labrum tears are pretty serious injuries. The recovery from such tears is mixed, although the outcomes are improving. A 2004 Will "Injury Expert (tm)" Carroll article in Slate painted a very dire picture of labrum tears indeed, although that article certainly does not reflect anything that has happened in the last 9 years and exaggerated the poor outcomes at the time (notably omitting Roger Clemens' labrum repair in 1985 and Curt Schilling's 1995 repair).
Baseball Prospectus has a more updated, nuanced view of labrum repairs, dating from the Michael Pineda fiasco. I'd recommend you just view the article rather than read my summary of it. Briefly, some come back and do really well (Chris Carpenter, Schilling, Clemens, Anibal Sanchez), some come back and flop (Mark Mulder, Matt Clement), and some never return at all. The likelihood of someone returning from a labrum tear, generically described, and succeeding as a pitcher is probably less than 50%.
But there's no such thing as a generic labrum tear. The chance of return depends in part on the degree of the tear. Last year, the club described the degree of labrum tearing as "moderate," which is the middle case ("complete tear" and "minor tear" represent the ends of the spectrum). The club, as I said before, has not clarified whether it remains moderate, has improved, or worsened. Jaime describes his pain now as worse than before, which is something of a flag.
The other complicating factor is the involvement of his rotator cuff; pitchers with labrum tears but no damage to their rotator cuffs will typically recover better than those with torn rotator cuffs as well. Garcia will be having a repair to his cuff as well.
So, while the labrum tear isn't quite the kiss of death that Carroll made it out to be, it's clearly pretty serious.
Taking all that into consideration, I'd think that we should give some leniency to the fact that Garcia gave rest and recovery the opportunity to work. Success following surgery is far from a sure thing; surgery can clearly be a career-ender. Looking at Garcia's and the club's long-term interests, even blowing 9 months on the rest option doesn't seem unreasonable.
The big risks were a) that rest would be a failure and surgery a success, resulting in the loss of playing time to rest and rehab or b) that his tear would worsen in an attempt to come back from rest-and-rehab and become inoperable. We certainly didn't know then and don't know now that surgery will be successful. We don't know whether the rest-and-rehab followed by a return helped or hurt his shoulder. I think people looking from the outside who insist that surgery was clearly the only option are speaking way too soon. People inside the club, people with access to the doctors' advice and evaluations may have a more valid perspective, but random-dude-on-the-internets rants about how Jaime clearly should have gotten surgery are worth nothing.
Like a lot of things in life, we can only go on the best information and hope it all works out. Right now, I hope Jaime rebounds quickly and starts healthy in 2014.
In other news, Fernando Salas has been suffering from shoulder inflammation. He goes on the 15-day DL to allow Tyler Lyons a spot on the active roster.
Lyons, of course, went 7 innings last night, allowing four hits and one run (on a solo homer in the sixth). He walked one, struck out four, and got 12 groundouts, which is pretty much the kind of solid, innings-eating good stuff we were hoping for. The bad news is that Jake Westbrook's elbow started hurting again when he threw off the mound for the first time yesterday, so we may be seeing more of Mr. Lyons. Hopefully, he will continue to have the same kind of success.
The Cardinals also lost Salas's one-time Memphis bullpen-mate, Eduardo Sanchez, to the waiver wire, when Sanchez was designated for assignment to accommodate Tyler Lyons' promotion. The decision to DFA Sanchez struck me as very curious. Sanchez had not looked well since succumbing to injury after his stint with the MLB club in 2011. Still, the roster move seemed unnecessary, especially announced in conjunction with season-ending surgery to Jaime Garcia, who could have easily been shifted to the 60-day DL (which has not yet happened).
Even ignoring the obvious 60-day option for Garcia, more roster space could have easily been gotten by designating inessential pieces like Victor Marte or Michael Blazek for assignment.
As much as Eduardo Sanchez has been lurking around the periphery of the team for several years, I was surprised to see that he's basically the same age as a lot of guys on the 40-man who've never seen major league time: Sanchez, Blazek, Keith Butler, Maikel Cleto, and Kevin Siegrist were all born in 1989. Sam Freeman, Eric Fornataro, Marte, and Jorge Rondon are all older than Sanchez.
I don't know that the Sanchez we briefly caught a glimpse of was ever coming back: the guy with only a mild control problem who could strike out one of every three guys he saw. Since 2011, his K rate has dropped to a more pedestrian sub-20% and his walk rate has been high or very high. He's walked 38 batters across 2012 and 2013 and struck out 45, in 50 innings. That's not a sign of good things to come, and I wouldn't blame the club for giving up on him. I am more surprised that his departure took place in the way it did; in lieu of a much simpler roster move and before the movement of lesser prospects.
For everyone who struggled to remember the difference between Fernando Salas, Francisco Samuel, and Eduardo Sanchez back in 2009 or 2010, your task has become simpler. If he's in the Cardinals org, he's Fernando Salas.