Clay Holmes could be following the same path as Nick Kingham. (Photo Credit: Robin Black)

Clay Holmes Has Tommy John Surgery

Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitching prospect Clay Holmes underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. I just spoke with Holmes, who was wearing a bandage and a sling over his right arm, and he said he will go back to Dr. Andrews after four months for an evaluation. The expected recovery time is 10-12 months, which should put Holmes in position to be game ready during Spring Training next year.


“The timing, you never want it to happen, but I won’t miss any of next year. Just rehab this year and come back next year,” Holmes said.

The Pirates shut Holmes down two weeks ago after he was experiencing elbow tightness. Holmes had issues with his elbow last year during the Fall Instructional Leagues, and was shut down for rest and rehab over the off-season. The elbow started bothering him again in camp, and the Pirates shut him down and scheduled him for a visit to get the elbow evaluated. Holmes talked about his focus during the recovery period, including things that he could focus on while he’s not able to pitch.

“It’s not something anyone wants to go through, but it gives you the chance to focus on something mechanically, or my body, or anything like that,” Holmes said. “It’s basically a year I get to work my body out, and take care of some things with my head, or mechanically, to basically just become that much better. If you look at it positive like that, there’s a lot of good things that are going to come out of it.”

Holmes was expected to make the jump to Bradenton this year. He will probably go to that level next year once he’s recovered. We had him ranked as the #12 prospect in the system prior to the injury.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • IC Bob

    Tough deal but it happens.

  • GoldNeck

    I’m trying to keep up with what the Bucs (and for that matter, any team) should do concerning that ulnar collateral surgery delaying so many players’ careers. Have you come by any discussion with anyone, not only Pirate employees, but anyone assessing developmental practices or body-type identification on how to avoid this? Or, more interestingly, might it be the new norm knowing this sport now will blow out some UCLs and incorporate a philosophy of “acceptable risk, now only one year off, and you’ve got some tendon transplantation – it’s ilke being 13 again!”.

  • KauaiCoffee

    The Pirates should have every pitcher they draft immediately get TJ surgery upon signing their contract. Just get it out of the way early.

  • RB

    The thing that is frustrating to me is that he had symptoms last fall, so why not get it checked out then? Even if there is a relatively low chance that it will be a condition requiring surgery, surely it is worth the price of a visit to Dr. Andrews because there will be some cases, like this one, where surgery is required. Holmes could be six months further along toward recovery if the elbow had been promptly evaluated.

    • Tim Williams

      They did get it checked out then. It was determined that he needed to rest it to see if it would improve.

      Either way, he’s missing the 2014 season. If he has surgery over the off-season, he’s not going to be ready by the end of the minor league season (which ends in early September).

    • stevew

      Often MRI’s don’t show when a pitcher’s UCL is starting to fray, even when he is having symptoms. Likely Holmes’ MRI last fall was clean but then his throwing in camp caused the UCL to tear enough that the latest MRI revealed damage.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    I’m not an expert on TJ surgery or what causes it to occur, but I do have a question – if there is someone who really has insight into this….
    Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was not uncommon for starting pitchers to throw 150 pitches in a game, make 35-40 starts in a season, and pitch 300 innings – and many of the top SPs then did it year after year after. I am referring to guys like Seaver, Jenkins, Niekro, Wood, Kaat, Gibson, Palmer, Koosman, Marichal, Sutton, etc. And, I don’t recall seeing or hearing of so many pitchers getting injured, requiring surgery, etc. – especially so many of these young pitchers who don’t pitch a heavy load like the guys did 40-50 years ago.
    What was different back then, compared to today? Why so many young pitchers having this condition that requires surgery and a year or more of rehab? I’m curious to know form someone who truly knows.

    • chenzt

      Those you mentioned back then were incredibly lucky and pitched despite the arm abuse, not because they had steel arms. For those that weren’t so lucky, you never heard from them again and that’s why it seems like everyone in the 60s had indestructible arms.

      • Joe9195

        I’ll add to a lesser extent radar guns.

  • mam995

    Dear Chezt and BuccoFanStuckinMD, if you haven’t seen this pitchers injury synopsis by Keith Olbermain, watch this link. it is just superb. and well done and well researched…sort of like Tim does in all of his columns.

  • japple2298

    The main reason Pitchers were able to pitch so much before is simple. The mound was higher. When they lowered the mound in the 70’s, that changed everything. The lower mounds make it tougher on arms, and also makes a pitcher under 6 foot tall, unlikely to be a successful pitcher. There are exceptions, but to make it easier on the hitters, the mound was lowered, thus arm problems and more strain on arms.

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