Did Tony Gonsolin Pitching With Elbow Injury Cause Tommy John Surgery?

After weeks of vaguely discussing the injury and only recently revealing it to be elbow trouble, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced Tony Gonsolin is undergoing Tommy John surgery on Friday.

Gonsolin had already been ruled out from returning this season, and the procedure figures to keep him out for all of 2024 as well. Dr. Neal ElAttrache is performing the Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles.

Coming off an All-Star season, Gonsolin never found any sort of rhythm or looked like himself. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts began to allude to the right-hander not recovering well between starts but didn’t offer any other specifics.

What was apparent was Gonsolin had been pitching well below 100% health. He continued to do so in part because Roberts said the Dodgers received assurances from doctors that Gonsolin was not at risk of further injury.

But with Gonsolin now needing Tommy John surgery, Roberts was asked if there was a miscalculation.

“It was just asymptomatic and he felt like he could keep pitching. To be quite honest, he could still pitch right now,” Roberts said.

“But it wasn’t productive. With all pitchers, I’m assuming there’s always some damage or tears. Some guys can pitch through it, which Tony did. There’s nothing that the MRI showed after his last start that was worse and caused the Tommy John. This is something that he had on his mind and we thought was a potential from the middle of the season.”

When pressed further on the notion that Gonsolin did not experience any discomfort, Roberts acknowledged how he felt could not fully be compared to after making 15 or 20 starts in any other season.

“I would say he felt good enough to pitch,” Roberts clarified. “Where somebody else could have the same imaging, and not be able to pitch. There were still 93s, 94 (mph), the slider was good. He just wasn’t getting guys out.

“So I think we felt he earned the opportunity to try to work through it, he earned the opportunity to try to reach some incentives and at some point we talked and said this was good enough, and we both agreed.”

Roberts added he wasn’t certain how long Gonsolin had been pitching through a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing elbow.

Tony Gonsolin contract incentives

By making a 20th start this season, Gonsolin reached another performance bonus threshold in the two-year, $6.65 million contract extension he signed in February to avoid salary arbitration.

The 29-year-old wound up adding an additional $2 million to his salary for 2024 by way of making 20 starts this season. Gonsolin’s final outing of the year alone amounted to an additional $500,000.

Gonsolin now is poised to receive a $5.4 million salary during the 2024 season.

“I think that was motivation to pitch, and I can sympathize and understand that from the player’s perspective,” Roberts said. “And I still believe if we would’ve stopped this process months ago, he’d be in the same position to have Tommy John surgery.

“It was one of those things that we had really honest conversations with Tony, knowing the ultimate potential outcome of potentially having surgery but appreciating him wanting to keep pitching.

“And to be quite honest, where we were at with our pitching staff at that point in time, we were running through some guys and he wanted to keep pitching because he felt he could pitch and help the ballclub out. So it went both ways.”

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