OAKLAND – Jarrod Parker has plenty of healing to do physically.
Mentally, the A’s right-hander seems to be holding up very well after suffering a broken elbow as he was nearing the end of his rehab from a second Tommy John surgery.
Parker addressed the media Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery May 19 for a fractured medial epicondyle. He’s facing yet another lengthy rehab, and Parker said the aim is to return sometime in the 2016 season. As devastating as a third major elbow injury is for the career of the 26-year-old, Parker believes the power of positive thinking is as important as any physical rehab he’ll be undergoing.
Immediately after he suffered the injury in a May 8 rehab start with Triple-A Nashville, Parker sent out a series of tweets saying he would overcome his latest obstacle.
“There’s no doubt (that psychologically) that’s where the challenge is, more than feeling a little pain or whatever,” Parker said. “I felt like I needed to (express positivity), and it got me over the hump a little bit. The support I got from these guys, family, friends, I couldn’t ask for anymore. It’s all kind of surreal at this point, so I’m still digesting it a little bit.”
The good news was that his twice-reconstructed ulnar collateral ligament was not damaged again. But there’s simply not much medical precedent for a pitcher who has undergone two reconstructive elbow surgeries, and then had to come back from a fractured elbow on top of that.
The video of Parker crumpling to the ground in pain after throwing a pitch in that May 8 game with Nashville was tough to watch.
“At first I heard it pop. I assumed, ‘There’s my ligament,’” Parker said. “… (A fracture) was the best of the worst, I guess. It wasn’t anything I’d wish upon anyone. It was probably one of the most painful things. But, forget about it and move on. It’s just like being a starter, right? Forget about it and move on. That’s what we do.”
Parker’s rehab from his second Tommy John surgery was going remarkably smooth up until his fracture. He was throwing in the low 90’s and showing command of his pitches. His minor league rehab stint was due to expire May 22. Had he been added to the 25-man roster at that point, his return would have come at roughly the 14-month mark from his surgery. The typical recovery from Tommy John surgery is anywhere between 12 to 18 months, though coming back from a second one can be more problematic.
Parker didn’t give the impression that he felt he was being brought along too quickly.
“The rehab I had, it’s almost like it was too smooth,” he said. “It was going really well and everything. I’m three pitches away from being done, and then (the fracture) happens. I guess it could have happened at any point. You try not to dwell on it. It is what it is.”
Most importantly, Parker said he tries not to dwell on the unfortunate turn his career has taken due to three elbow injuries.
“I don’t ride the roller coaster,” he said. “I think that’s when you can really get caught up feeling sorry for yourself. I still feel fortunate. There’s people a whole lot worse off than I am. I can come in here and smile and try to pick these guys up.”