Not every comeback from Tommy John surgery is going to be a smooth road, and the Los Angeles Angels are about to find out just how bumpy it can get.
Ryan Madson, the team’s biggest off-season bullpen acquisition, has hit a roadblock in his return from surgery:
The 30-year old was signed by the Angels earlier this season to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with incentives that could have doubled that number, and the setback may be a significant red flag as to whether the righty will be able to achieve them this year.
Madson was essentially anointed to be the Angels closer while in the middle of his rehab process, and because he’s been shut down at this stage, whether he’ll be ready to take on that role when the season begins on April 1st is unclear.
It wouldn’t be the highest of notes to start the 2013 season for the Angels, who opened up the wallets once again this off-season, adding pieces like Madson and Josh Hamilton to boost the team’s chances of contending.
Though their closer may end up starting the season on the DL, not everyone is all about the doom-and-gloom. Especially not manager Mike Scioscia, who said that the elbow pain Madson felt is part of the “normal rehab process”, and that the team will “err on the side of caution” and not set a hard timeline for his return.
That said, he does expect Madson to be in game shape sometime in April, which, as Aiden Gonzalez of MLB.com notes, would have been just around a year since the date the right hander underwent the surgery.
A DL stint to open the season would be in line with a “conservative” timeline for a return, so perhaps the Angels are right not to be overly concerned yet.
That said, the team will have to quickly move to find a plan B in the event that the setback leads to further complications, with the most likely option to take over the ninth inning for Madson being in-house candidate Ernesto Frieri, who was the team’s closer last season after taking over for Jordan Walden.
Frieri wound up recording 23 saves over 66 innings, and was lights-out in the process, striking out batters at a 13.25 K/9 rate while putting up a 2.32/0.96 ERA/WHIP.
With numbers like that, you can understand why the Angels aren’t panicking much, and are willing to take their time making sure Madson is ready to go. In fact, this could be a golden opportunity for Frieri, who would make the team’s choice that much harder by replicating his kinds of numbers to start the season.
Madson will have to worry about his elbow first, of course. But by the time he comes back, he may not even have the closer’s job that seemed to be his only a couple of months ago anymore.