It's possible Seth Lugo will eventually need Tommy John surgery, but that will mostly depend on the size of the tear in combination with the PRP injections and how methodical and disciplined he is in his return to throwing.
Frankly, the fact that Lugo got a second opinion from elbow-expert Dr. James Andrews - a day after initially being diagnosed by Dr. Altcheck - is probably not a good sign.
That said, when it comes to health, nothing is written in stone and every body is different...
So, despite all signs pointing toward Lugo missing at least a year after going under the knife, it's also possible he's able to strengthen his arm, he responds well to alternative therapies and is able to pitch again this season.
Lugo against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The thing is, even if he gets back on a mound in 2017, this is now something that must be monitored because, like in the case of Zack Wheeler, partially torn ligaments can fray from being overused and eventually still warrant surgery.
Can he pitch if he doesn't have surgery?
It depends on how he reacts to alternative therapies. For instance, Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka threw an amazing 2016 season pitching with a similar ligament tear. Similarly, after passing on surgery last summer for stem cell treatments in the fall, Garrett Richards looked good this spring and is scheduled to start for the Angels this week.
Is the World Baseball Classic to blame for the injury?
Yes, and no. In all likelihood, the tear was present before the WBC. In fact, new research is teaching us that, in almost all cases, there is no one moment that the damage occurred. Instead, it's the result of years and years of countless pitches that put unnatural stress on the body starting as early as high school baseball. The issue is that these little frays in the ligament are not typically detectable until they mesh and start to tear, which is usually the point when the player begins to experience pain or an inability to fire on all cylinders as expected.
In the case of Lugo, the last phase clearly just happened.
So, yes, pitches he threw during the WBC contributed to the problem, but so did pitches he threw for the Mets last season, pitches he threw in the minors and possibly even when he was a teenager.
Mar 22, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports (Gary A. Vasquez)
In all likelihood, WBC or not, this issue would have reared its head at some point in Lugo's future. At least by it happening now, the Mets can adjust their roster, while he and doctors assess the situation and create a plan to get him back on the mound sooner than later.
Lugo made his big-league debut with the Mets during 2016, during which the team went 7-1 when he filled in for Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz,
In eight starts, he had a 2.68 ERA and struck out 5.6 batters per nine innings. Similarly, in nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA and struck out 8.5 per nine innings.
Lugo had been competing to be the team's fifth starter, but was slated for the bullpen.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...