The Pittsburgh Pirates announced today that right-handed pitcher JT Brubaker underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament. The surgery was performed by Dr. Keith Meister. Brubaker is projected to return to MLB competition in 14-16 months.
That’s a tough setback for Brubaker, who was going to be one of the core pieces in the rotation this year during his age 29 season. His ERA in 315.2 innings in the majors is 4.99, but his FIP is 4.43. The latter was 3.92 last year, and the hope was that Brubaker would take a step forward in 2023, just as he did from 2021 to 2022.
Under the current timeline, Brubaker won’t return to the majors until next June to next August. Essentially, he will be a summer depth option for the 2024 rotation, or perhaps the equivalent of a trade deadline addition.
The obvious downside to this is that it halts Brubaker at a key time in his career when he was showing progress. Whether he can maintain that progress on the other side of this lengthy layoff will be seen. The Pirates have Brubaker under team control through the 2025 season.
They turned to Johan Oviedo to replace Brubaker this year, and Oviedo pitched very well in his most recent start. The Pirates’ rotation depth has taken a hit lately, with Mike Burrows missing time with a forearm and ligament issue.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
I just saw this! What a bummer 🙁
Wishing him a speedy recovery.
Sorry to say that my prediction he would have TJ surgery has sadly come through.
Dammit. He was the guy I was really looking forward to seeing if there was more in the tank because there were some interesting traits.
The other thing that makes this tough for him is he will be a free agent after 2025. So his first full healthy season post TJ would also be his showcase for what (if things went well) would be his biggest contract opportunity. Of course that also has implications for the Pirates (actually all teams when this happens) and resource planning. If the Pirates look like playoff contenders in 2025 it is hard to pencil in a post TJ starter in your rotation. ie. I hope they have better options.
Had to be tough for him. You don’t get Tommy John at the age of 29 unless it’s absolutely necessary.
I think Verlander had it at age 36 and came back and won the Cy Young.
The Dr.’s and PT’s are so good nowadays, it’s pretty rare for MLB guys to take a step back once they’ve healed up. Even at the ripe old age of 29.
I worked a lot of years rehabbing all types of athletes. If he is motivated I would think he will do well. Just sucks because I was looking forward to seeing him help the team this year. But I guess I felt the same about Cruz.
Next man up I feel.
It does happen, but it is a lot more common for players to be fine after TJ. His sounds like a normal recovery period, so nothing to worry about, but by the time he returns next year, the Pirates may no longer have a spot in the rotation for him.
We can only hope the rotation is so good there isn’t room for him. But I doubt it.
Bummer for J.T. Hope all goes well with healing and rehab and he comes back strong.
Dang. Prayers for a speedy and incident free recovery.