Edinson Volquez made his way back to the mound after his first Tommy John surgery in 2009. But after undergoing the same procedure for a second time on Friday, the future is less certain for the Marlins’ 34-year-old pitching veteran.
According to a 2015 medical study, the success rate isn’t as encouraging for pitchers who have Tommy John a second time. And those pitchers who manage to make it back aren’t as effective as they were previously.
“Although a second surgery may not be career-ending, it appears to be career-limiting by virtue of a decreased workload and pitching productivity,” said Dr. Vasilio Moutzouros, an orthopedic surgeon who was involved in a Henry Ford Hospital study that examined pitchers who had Tommy John.
While about 75 percent of all major-league pitchers who have elbow ligament replacement surgery are able to pitch again, the figure drops to about 65 percent for those who require it a second time.
The Henry Ford study showed that walk rates escalated for second-time surgery recipients, while innings pitched declined by about half compared to those who had Tommy John performed once.
“And for those who return to the major-league level, they experience a mixed bag of performance levels,” Moutzouros said. “In several categories, their performance declines significantly.”
Volquez isn’t a young pitcher, either.
“And then he’s a little older, too,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “So it puts him in a different spot.”
Ex-Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson never made it back after having Tommy John a second time, and even had the procedure done a third time, to no avail. Jarrod Parker, a promising young starter for the Athletics in 2012 and ’13 when he won 13 and 12 games, respectively, didn’t make it back, either.
Relievers have had better luck. Shawn Kelley, Joakim Soria, Brian Wilson and Chris Capuano made successful returns after having the surgery performed a second time. Relieving is something that Volquez might have to consider.
“Some relievers come back sooner, so that might be something to look at as well [with Volquez],” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.
Whatever the role, there’s a strong chance that Volquez might not pitch again for the Marlins. The typical recovery time is 12 to 14 months. Volquez, who signed a two-year, $22 million contract last winter, has one year remaining on a deal that calls for him to make $13 next season.
“We know what the rehab is for Tommy John, a minimum of 12 months,” Hill said. “He’s a veteran. He’s been through injuries before. But it’s hard to speculate when he’ll be back.”
While the Marlins reported that Friday’s surgery “went well,” Volquez faces long months ahead of working his arm back into shape.
“Whenever you get cut on, there’s risk,” Hill said. “We’re hopeful he comes through it OK and the rehab goes well to get him back and have him, hopefully, healthy.”
Nobody knows what the future holds for Volquez.
“There’s been pitchers who have had two [surgeries] and come back and pitch,” Hill said. “[But] the numbers are what they are.”
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (7-7, 3.79 ERA) at Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (9-6, 4.08), 7:10 p.m., SunTrust Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (9-5, 3.82) at Braves RHP Lucas Sims (0-1, 4.50), 1:35 p.m., SunTrust Park.