CLEARWATER, Fla. — An appointment with Dr. James Andrews is almost never good news for a pitcher with an ailing elbow. Braves prospect Arodys Vizcaino has one scheduled for Monday.
The right-hander has been shut down nearly two weeks and was diagnosed with ulnar neuritis. The Braves will have Andrews examine him Monday to determine if there is there is more damage to the ulnar collateral ligament.
Vizcaino, 21, partially tore the ligament in 2010, an injury allowed to heal without surgery.
He missed nearly three months but returned at the end of that season. He was back throwing 96 mph fastballs in a successful 2011 season, when he was promoted to the majors and spent the last two months in Atlanta’s bullpen.
A partially torn UCL can heal without surgery, although the success rate probably isn’t as high as it with ligament-transplant surgery, aka “Tommy John” surgery. The surgery requires a 12-14 month recovery.
“They can scar over,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said of the non-surgical healing process of a partially torn ligament. “But I think that’s why they need to further evaluate and see how much they think that could play into the sensitivity he has with the ulnar nerve now.”
Andrews is a leading specialist on elbows and ligament-transplant surgery.
Vizcaino last pitched in the Braves’ Grapefruit League opener April 3. The Braves hoped he would be a big part of their bullpen after showing flashes of his vast potential during a late-season callup in 2011.
Baseball America recently rated him the No. 1 prospect among relief pitchers.
The hard-throwing Dominican is one of the Braves’ trio of top Latin pitching prospects, with starters Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado. Scouts believe Vizcaino could be a standout in either a starting or relief role, provided he can stay healthy.
Vizcaino was brought to the majors in August and had 17 strikeouts in 17-1/3 innings. But after posting a 1.69 ERA and .086 opponents’ average in nine August appearances, he had a 9.45 ERA and .406 opponents’ average in eight September games.