Earlier this week, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union Tribune reported that Padres pitcher Josh Johnson is scheduled to meet with renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews next week to look over his right elbow. Johnson has been sidelined since spring training when he strained his right forearm that landed him on the DL.
This does not bode well for Padre fans nor the organization. Typically, when Andrews is called in by teams, it usually results in Tommy John or season ending shoulder surgery. This could be Johnson’s second Tommy John surgery of his career and another significant injury to a player who has shown potential to become one of Major League Baseball’s best pitchers. Over the course of his career, he’s put up some impressive numbers when he is healthy. In 2009, Johnson recorded a 15-5 record and pitched 209 innings. More impressively, he followed it up the next season with a 2.30 ERA pitching 183 innings with the Marlins.
Since these two breakout seasons, Johnson has been hit with injuries. In addition to his 2007 Tommy John surgery, he’s had significant arm problems over the last couple of seasons. Is Johnson another Mark Prior? Are Josh Johnson’s days numbered as a Major League pitcher?
If comparing and contrasting their seasons, Prior busted on to the seen with the Chicago Cubs in 2002 and did not disappoint. He ended the 2003 campaign with an impressive 18-6 record, finishing third in the NL Cy Young vote, and led to the team to their first NLCS since 1989.
But the following season began Prior’s downhill spiral. His injuries began to mount year after year. Andrews performed season ending shoulder surgery in 2007. However, Prior’s past accomplishments and talent continued to land him opportunities with the Padres, Yankees, Red Sox, and Reds. Yet, they all ended in his release and eventual retirement from the game in 2013.
Are their similarities with both pitchers? Absolutely! If Andrews’s tests come up negative, the Padres have a pitcher that can still deliver a low-nineties fastball with a good curve. If history continues to tell us anything, it is that Johnson’s 2014 campaign might be over and quite possibly his career. Today’s medical advancements have shown that players can come back after Tommy John surgery but the numbers still favor the cons. Both Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg have bounce back from it, but it is very uncommon to see a player comeback from two surgeries. With Johnson long history of injuries and small success rate of players returning from multiple Tommy John surgeries, teams will more likely be skeptical to sign him to anything more than a minor league or low-money deal.