Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Edgar Santana will have Tommy John surgery, Todd Tomczyk announced to reporters today, including Adam Berry of MLB.com. The surgery will put Santana out for the entire 2019 season.
Edgar Santana will undergo Tommy John surgery, Todd Tomczyk said. He’ll miss the entire 2019 season. Tough break for a reliever who really established himself this season.
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) September 26, 2018
Santana had been solid in the bullpen this year, putting up a 3.26 ERA and a 3.93 xFIP in 66.1 innings of work over his first full season in the majors. Those numbers included a dominant stretch from the start of July up until right before he was injured, where he only allowed five earned runs in 32.1 innings.
The Pirates have seen a lot of their pitchers make adjustments to their pitching approach this year to throw fewer fastballs and more breaking pitches. Santana was the biggest case of this out of the bullpen. He already had a high slider usage at around 31% in April and May, but jumped up to 44.3% usage from the end of May through his final outing of the year. He also started throwing his sinker more often, which pairs well with the slider. It’s unlikely that the increased usage played a part in this, since Tommy John is typically a wearing of the ligaments over time, and a smaller increase for Santana over a shorter amount of time wouldn’t be enough to play an impact.
Santana was one of a few relievers who stepped up for the Pirates this year, joining Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as late inning options. All three were moved down a spot when the Pirates added Keone Kela at the trade deadline. Kela is under team control through the 2020 season, and that addition looks better now with the Pirates losing one of their better young relievers for the next season.
When Santana returns, the Pirates will have all of the current relievers under team control, and he will rejoin the mix, with four years of control remaining starting with the 2020 season.
Santana is the second Pirates pitcher that has been lost for the 2019 season with Tommy John, with Chad Kuhl also undergoing the procedure.