The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted John Pomeroy in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. At 6’5″, 225 pounds, he is a large presence on the mound and we saw him hitting 98 MPH during the 2016 Fall Instructional League. In 2017, the Pirates drafted Shea Murray in the 18th round. At 6’6″, 240 pounds and hitting 99 MPH, he is also an intimidating figure. Both of them had elbow injuries in 2017 that required surgery, though the Pirates went a different route than normal with Murray.
Pomeroy had successful Tommy John surgery on April 19th. He has been joined in the system recently by two other Tommy John surgery pitchers, who are on nearly identical time schedules in their return. Nick Burdi, who the Pirates picked up in a trade during the Rule 5 draft, had his surgery in May. Bo Schultz, who was signed as a free agent on Friday, had his surgery at the end of March.
While you don’t want to stockpile Tommy John pitchers, we have heard numerous times in the past that players are helped out in their return by having someone in the same situation there with them rehabbing. They’re able to get feedback, ask each other questions, and are often assured by similarities in their progress.
When Murray injured his elbow shortly after signing with the Pirates, they decided to try a procedure that is new and has a quicker recovery time than Tommy John surgery. Murray said that he had a torn UCL, but the ligament wasn’t replaced. He said that it was essentially stitched back to the bone. The intrigue with this new procedure is the quicker recovery time, but it appears that not every torn UCL can be repaired this way. Murray had that procedure done in late August.
I talked to both players recently to check up on their progress. Pomeroy has begun throwing already and has a program set out for him through early February when he will report to Spring Training.
“I’m out to 120 feet and starting to put some velocity behind my throws,” Pomeroy said. “I’m going to start throwing flat grounds on the 22nd.”
The Pirates had him report to Pirate City for four days in early December to check up on his rehab. It was going well, so they took the next step, giving him longer throws and allowing him to throw harder.
Murray, who had his surgery four months later, is at nearly the same point. He is also doing long toss now and hasn’t had any setbacks in his progress.
“I have had little to no hiccups with my rehab process and hope to continue progressing well,” Murray said. “I won’t officially throw bullpens for a couple weeks but have now been tossing for about a month.”
Both players will likely take things slow in their return, since neither is expected to play for a full-season team this year. With his pro experience, Pomeroy might get a chance to pitch in Low-A late in the year, but the Pirates take a cautious approach with players who had long-term injuries and both are likely to play in a short-season league this year, starting out in the GCL.
Both Pomeroy and Murray are lottery ticket arms, who each had very little mileage on those arms due to control issues in college. Murray mostly played outfield in 2017 at Ohio State and during his five seasons, which included a redshirt freshman year, he made just 13 relief appearances total. In three years at Oregon State, Pomeroy threw 14.1 innings total.
They both have big frames though and can hit upper 90s with very little experience on the mound, so you take your time with those type of arms and hope the control comes along far enough to make them legit prospects. Those are the type of players who could rocket through the system if everything clicks. For now, both are on track with their rehab and looking forward to getting on the mound during the 2018 season.