January 24, 2017

Mitch Harris eager to show Cardinals result of elbow surgery


St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jeffrey R. Dugas M.D.

For Cardinals reliever and U.S. Navy Reserve officer Mitch Harris, the threat of Tommy John surgery had little to do with its arduous rehab or even the months and months of recovery.

It was the likelihood he wouldn’t have reason to do either.

“If I would have had Tommy John, I probably would not be standing here,” Harris said this past week at the team’s 21st annual Winter Warm-Up. “My whole thing is I’m going to play as long as I can play. I think that was the tough part to hear at first: ‘Hey, this could be it.’”

Harris, 31, has already had his professional career delayed by military service and then derailed by a forearm injury that physicians traced back to a torn ligament in his right elbow. Reconstructive surgery last summer would have effectively cost Harris the 2017 season after he already had missed 2016 and wilted late in 2015. Baseball, by rule, doesn’t have such patience. Not for a reliever who is on the other side of 30. Or, as he and an official put it: “Time’s ticking.” A new surgical procedure offered him a chance to beat the clock.

Jeffrey R. Dugas quotes/references

Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, a managing partner at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., has performed around 150 of these “primary repair” operations, he told the Post-Dispatch earlier this month. Only one has been on a professional pitcher. Dugas described how that’s the next leap for the procedure, but added that it could be two or more years before surgeons have enough data to use “primary repair” as a true alternative to Tommy John. The recoveries of Maness and Harris will be scrutinized for that reason.

Dugas spoke in general terms about the surgery and suggested how he would consider the surgery for a professional pitcher if the tear was at the bone, the ligament integrity was solid, and if the recovery time for Tommy John was problematic for his career.

Harris certainly fits the latter.

To read the entire St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, written by Derrick Goold click here.