SARASOTA, Fla. — Even after the Detroit Tigers re-signed Joel Hanrahan to second one-year deal in 2015 he was never able to get pain-free, and now he'll undergo his second Tommy John surgery in less than two years time. Early Wednesday morning Hanrahan was granted his unconditional release by the organization.
Hanrahan will have UCL reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on March 18. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas, Texas. Hanrahan's initial surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews on May 13, 2013. At 33 years old Hanrahan has a significant recovery period ahead of him.
Joel Hanrahan was picked up by the Tigers in 2014 with the hope that he would, at some point, be able to pitch for them. But the nagging injury plagued his progress regardless of what he tried. Though it wasn't confirmed until Wednesday, Hanrahan said he had his suspicions for some time.
"I had a pretty good idea (surgery was needed)," Hanrahan said. "I had to hide it from you guys for a couple of days. After talking to the doctors here, and I went and saw (Dr. Keith) Meister last year, it was kind of one of those things he talked about then. The way I was feeling, I knew it wasn't just scar tissue. I had a pretty good idea something was going on."
<!-- ######## START MUSTREADS SNIPPET ######## --><link rel="stylesheet" href="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/assets/3603867/mustreads-compact-only.css"><div class="must-reads-compact-only-container"><h4><span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png" /></span> Tigers' Hanrahan will see elbow specialist in TX <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png" /></span></h4><div class="must-reads-compact-link-container"><a href="http://www.blessyouboys.com/2015/3/2/8133461/detroit-tigers-joel-hanrahan-injury-update">Joel Hanrahan will travel to see Dr. Keith Meister on Tuesday<span class="must-reads-compact-byline"></span></a></div></div><!-- ######## END MUSTREADS SNIPPET ######## -->
Unfortunately, the discomfort and pain wasn't restricted to when he was throwing, it extended into Hanrahan's activities. So even if he doesn't throw a baseball again another day in his life, Hanrahan was going to need a second surgery. At that point Hanrahan will have a decision to make, whether to pick up a baseball and return to pitching, or retire and tempt fate. At 33, though, the odds of him being able to return to his former form are against the right-hander.
"Certainly unfortunate for Joel and it's unfortunate for us, because he's a guy if he's healthy he can help us," Ausmus said. "But really, to go through a second one, that makes it even tougher. He's gonna get the surgery and do the rehab, re-reconsider what's next on his agenda, whether he's gonna try and play again or not."
The release was a condition of the arrangement, that if Hanrahan was unable to contribute and needed a second surgery, the Tigers would release him. Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that re-signing Hanrahan was always a "longshot," especially at 20 months when he didn't report to Lakeland feeling significant improvement.
"I feel terrible for him," Dombrowski said. "Not only was he a top closer in the game, he is a quality person. He's worked hard, he's had major surgery, you're hoping that he comes back. That would have been great for us but you are also hoping for his own sake that he comes back and enjoys a nice career."
When Dr. Meister initially told Hanrahan he might need another surgery last year, Hanrahan said he didn't believe it was possible as he wasn't in any significant pain. And after 15 years playing baseball, Hanrahan would prefer not to have to call it quits, but he may not have a choice.
"I can't golf, I can't pull the strings back on a bow," Hanrahan said. "I can't play ping pong. I have a two-year-old son I look forward to having a lot of time with. I knew when I couldn't play ping pong that I had to get it fixed. It's going to be a slow rehab. Meister told me he wanted me to go nine months without picking up a ball. Usually it's four. But I am going to give it what I got, do the rehab and see where it leads me."