Posted on March 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Cincinnati Reds Anthony DeSclafani

Image via espn.com

The Cincinnati Reds already knew that ace Anthony DeSclafani would be unable to start on opening day because of elbow soreness, making it the second straight year an injury prevented him from starting Cincinnati’s season opener. Unfortunately, the young righty has now suffered a setback that will keep him out even longer. The club announced Monday that DeSclafani has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He will be shut down from any throwing for the next four weeks, meaning he will begin the season on the DL and may miss the first month or more of the 2017 season.

Reds GM Dick Williams told the media Monday that DeSclafani had flown from the team’s spring training complex in Arizona to Cincinnati to have an MRI, which confirmed a sprain of his UCL. The pain DeSclafani felt in his elbow earlier this spring subsided, allowing him to return to throwing after a minor setback. However, after throwing two bullpen sessions, DeSclafani again felt pain in his elbow, prompting the team to send him for an MRI.

“There is a sense of relief that it’s not (completely) torn and it’s something we’re able to address going forward,” Williams told reporters. “It’s always scary when you start having issues with that ligament. It’s something you’ve got to be real careful with going forward.”

Williams adds that the team is currently developing a treatment plan for DeSclafani to follow in the weeks to come. After being given a chance to rest his elbow for four weeks, DeSclafani will be re-evaluated. The Reds and team doctors are confident that DeSclafani will be able to avoid Tommy John surgery.

Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who diagnosed DeSclafani with the sprained UCL, says the injury is similar to an injury Cincinnati reliever Michael Lorenzen had last spring. Lorenzen recovered from the injury and returned to the big leagues in June, although his absence was extended after also having to recover from mononucleosis.

“Obviously, any time you avoid the worst case, it’s good,” Williams said. “We were hoping that would be the case. Anthony says it still feels like something he could pitch with, but he knew something was wrong. When he threw his bullpen the other day, he felt something after a specific pitch. It correlates with what they saw on the MRI.”

The news regarding DeSclafani could obviously be worse from Cincinnati’s perspective, although now the Reds have to deal with both DeSclafani and Homer Bailey beginning the season on the DL. The Reds will now start the season with Brandon Finnegan and Scott Feldman as the only two mainstays in their rotation, while the other three spots appear to be up for grabs for a slew of candidates. Williams has not ruled out acquiring a pitcher from outside the organization. Pitchers like Colby Lewis and Doug Fister remain available as free agents.

“I think we’ve got to digest the alternatives and see what’s out there,” Williams said. “We’re still very committed to seeing what we have here in camp. These guys have really done a great job with the opportunity that’s been given to them. That whole group continues to perform.”

Amir Garrett and Sal Romano are among the possible rotation candidates who have impressed early in spring. Bronson Arroyo, who is with the team on a minor-league contract, could also be an option, although he’s made just one appearance in a game this spring.

The Reds can take some solace is knowing the that DeSclafani’s elbow trouble isn’t more serious and that he’s expected to return in late April or sometime in May. However, missing both him and Bailey at the start of the season brings up some serious questions about their rotation that the team will have to answer by the end of spring training.

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