After three elbow surgeries, can A’s starter Jarrod Parker make a comeback?
Oakland A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker should, like anyone else in his situation, be looking and hoping that a team, any team, would give him a chance right now. Perhaps sign him to a minor league deal with an invite to big league spring training, at best.
At just 27 years old, Parker has already undergone two Tommy John surgeries. For most pitchers that would be enough to either end their career or relegate them to the bullpen for the remainder of it. Parker however has not only undergone the two Tommy John procedures, he suffered a gruesome elbow injury last May, during his final rehab start in his recovery from the second procedure. The injury, an elbow fracture, required a third surgery.
In most circumstances this would, sadly, signal that it is time to give up his dream. Parker however doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the words “give up,” and his team, the Oakland Athletics see something in him that they happen to agree. In December the A’s tendered a contract to Parker after his three surgeries but did not tender a contract to fellow starter A.J. Griffin who was only recovering from his first Tommy John procedure. Admittedly Griffin had issues in attempting to recover from his first surgery and Parker’s resilience and the progress he’d already made likely went into their decision making.
Parker was once one of the Oakland A’s top starters but he hasn’t pitched in a big league game since Game 3 of the 2013 American League Division Series. Yet the Athletics have kept faith in the young pitcher through two surgeries. Actually you could even include his first one which took place on October 28, 2009 when he was still with the Arizona Diamondback’s organization. He was traded in December 2011 to the A’s who were willing then to take a gamble on this kid.
Parker gave the A’s two seasons of good solid big league starts. He averaged 30 starts over the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons, while posting a 3.73 ERA for Oakland. The A’s were champions of their division in both those seasons, making back to back postseason appearances.
Still, not many pitchers comeback from their second Tommy John surgery to pitch again and if they do it is usually out of the bullpen. Even though Parker’s third surgery was just to repair his fractured elbow and not his ulnar collateral ligament, it seems unlikely that he’d still be able to pitch.
Yet, Parker is not aiming towards just pitching, he intends to start again. The A’s are currently stretching him out during spring training to be a potential starter. Parker is already throwing off the mound, right along with his peers. Although he does have to take a mandatory two days off in between bullpen sessions, while the other pitchers get to work out every other day. Parker, however, is just happy to be there.
He should be. Not many teams would have taken another chance on him and I doubt there is another team out there who would give him the opportunity to attempt to start again. If Parker does comeback as a starter for Oakland in 2016 and pitches well, it might be the biggest and best comeback made by a pitcher in MLB history.
So far very few pitchers have been able to comeback to make more than a handful of starts after their second Tommy John surgery. Chris Capuano, who is in camp with the Milwaukee Brewers right now, has been the only pitcher to successfully comeback to make more than 10 starts after a second procedure. He’s started 109 games since his return to the big leagues in 2010 and appeared in 176 games.
Jason Isringhausen isn’t the only pitcher have undergone three Tommy John surgeries but he is by far the one who pitched the most successfully upon his return. He ended up pitching 16 years in the majors but 13 of those were out of the bullpen. Regardless, together with Capuano’s return to starting, Isringhausen’s continued comebacks are probably the most unbelievable comebacks in baseball history.
If Parker is able to return to the starting rotation after two Tommy John procedures and a third elbow surgery to make quality starts for the Athletics in 2016, his comeback could potentially be considered the best comeback of all time. And if not the best of all time, then he would at least be a shoe-in for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.