Nats' prospect to have Tommy John surgery

Nats' prospect to have Tommy John surgery
February 28, 2012, 3:04 pm

Updated at 4:52 p.m.

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals pitching prospect Sammy Solis has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, an injury that will require season-ending Tommy John surgery, the club officially learned this afternoon.

Solis is scheduled to have the ligament replacement surgery next Tuesday in Los Angeles, general manager Mike Rizzo said this afternoon. Orthopedist Lewis Yocum, who performed the same procedure on Nationals pitchers Jordan Zimmermann in 2009 and Stephen Strasburg in 2010, will operate.

Rated by Baseball America as the organization's sixth-best prospect, Solis had been dealing with elbow issues since November, when he was shut down from pitching in the Arizona Fall League with discomfort. Consultations with both Yocum and Nationals team doctor Wiemi Douoguih produced a difference of opinions; though MRIs showed a "slight change" in the ligament, according to Rizzo, Solis passed the other physical tests done to detect a tear.

Ultimately, the Nationals instructed Solis to take the rest of the winter off and then report to spring training and attempt to resume a throwing program.

"Because he passed all the physical tests they put him through, they felt the most prudent course of action would be to have him rest for a month and then ramp him back up into a throwing program, to see if we can avoid the Tommy John surgery," Rizzo said.

The 23-year-old lefty didn't make it very far through that program, though, after reporting to the Nationals' accelerated development camp last week. Following a bullpen session on Friday, he complained of elbow soreness.

Douoguih examined him and recommended Tommy John surgery, but Solis first flew to California to receive a second opinion from Yocum, who came to the same conclusion.

"We always knew this was a possibility," Rizzo said. "But we thought that instead of cutting on him right away, we felt that maybe we could get through this with rehabilitation. And we couldn't, so it cost us a couple months. But we felt it was prudent for a young pitcher. If two doctors aren't 100 percent sure that Tommy John is needed, I wasn't going to be the one to say it was needed."

The first pick of the second round of the 2010 draft out of the University of San Diego, Solis went 8-3 with a 3.26 ERA and a 93-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 starts between low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac last season. He went on to post a 4.50 ERA in seven starts in the AFL, dazzling onlookers including Rizzo on Nov. 4 with a four-inning, nine-strikeout performance (most by any AFL pitcher this year).

Solis' next start five days later -- he allowed three runs and four hits in three innings -- was his last.

Recovery time for Tommy John patients is typically 12-to-18 months, so Solis could be ready for the start of spring training next season. If he makes a full recovery, he'll still be viewed as a pitcher who could reach the majors in short order.

"He's a terrific prospect," Rizzo said. "He's got great stuff. We always thought even after we drafted him that he was a quick-to-the-big-leagues guy. This will derail that a little bit. But it's the same surgeon that did Strasburg and Zimmermann. So we feel confident that he should regain his pre-injury form, and we feel once he does, he'll be a definite positive factor for us in the near future."