Tommy John surgery, named after the first baseball player to successfully undergo the operation, has become common among professional pitchers. According to the latest count, 25 percent of current Major League pitchers have undergone the operation, which involves replacing a torn elbow tendon with a harvested tendon.
Eighteen-year-old Cleveland Indians pitcher Jonas Wyatt is the latest pitcher to go under the knife.
Wyatt was a sixth-round draft pick out of Quartz Hill high school in 2015, blowing hitters away with his 96 mph fastball in the AZL to the tune of a 1.62 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Many had high hopes for the youngster heading into this season, but they'll have to wait a year after Wyatt had successfully TJ surgery last week.
While recovering back home in California, Wyatt spoke with Let's Go Tribe about his addiction to working out and his Tommy John surgery and his love of shoes in this exclusive interview.
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Brian Hemminger (Let's Go Tribe): You have a love of buying shoes. I have to hear about this.
Jonas Wyatt: Oh yeah. I guess I've just always liked shoes. It seems like when I'm bored, I go online and look at shoes or buy shoes. I don't know. I just can't get enough of 'em. I'm really into Adidas right now because of the Ultra Boost and the NMDs. I'm not really a fan of Jordan's because my feet are big and I look kinda goofy in them. I go for shoes that are a little bit thinner and not as big and bulky.
Brian Hemminger: Other than buying shoes, what's something else you love to do in your free time?
Jonas Wyatt: I'm really into working out. Back in high school, I got a personal trainer and he was a big part of getting me to where I am. That really motivated me and changed my thoughts on training and I really fell in love with working out. I put in the work and started seeing results and it became kind of like an addiction, seeing myself getting stronger and progression and it really opened my eyes.
After I got drafted, my personal trainer got another job in real estate, but I still have the dedication to go and work out. It just really helps me take my mind off things and it's just somewhere I like to just be. There's something about seeing yourself get better. I just enjoy it a lot.
Brian Hemminger: A while back, you mentioned that you hated pitching when it's windy and cold. Is that a problem since you're in the Cleveland Indians organization considering five of their professional teams are in Northern Ohio?
Jonas Wyatt: I'm not too worried about it now. That was back then. I prefer pitching in the warmer weather obviously because you're hands aren't cold, you're body's warm and you feel looser. It'll definitely be a big change. I've never pitched in super cold weather like in Ohio and all that so it'll maybe be something I'll have to adapt to. I don't think it'll be too big of a deal. I can get used to it and dial it in once I'm back and pitching again. That was probably something I just tweeted when I was younger and just complaining about something on my mind. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger: You were dominant last year with the AZL in your brief stay there after being drafted. What was the jump like playing against professional ball players compared to high school?
Jonas Wyatt: Yeah, I gave up eight singles last year, three runs in like 16.2 innings. I was pretty happy with the outcome. It was better competition than in high school but you weren't just facing better batters, you had better fielders behind you too so there were guys making plays behind me that were amazing. I wasn't striking everyone out, but the intensity level was higher and I just went out there and did my best and had good defense behind me to back me up so that helped out a lot.
Brian Hemminger: I'd like to transition to the Tommy John surgery. From the looks of it, you were caught completely off guard heading into this 2016 season. When did you first discover that something might be wrong?
Jonas Wyatt: During Spring Training, I came in feeling good and everything was going well, but I think Spring Training is a bit different than the season. In Spring Training, we were pitching every third day instead of every fifth or sixth day. We weren't pitching as many innings at a time, but it was just so much throwing every day. Even on the days you weren't pitching, you were throwing bullpens and there was just so much going on and I don't think I prepared myself for that much throwing.
I prepared myself more towards the season style, having those few extra days off and pitching every fifth day and my arm just got tired. Right at the end of Spring Training, it started bothering me and I kind of pushed through it a little bit but then it just started bothering me too much. I told the trainers and was shut down for a little bit there in extended Spring Training and I kind of worked my way back up after about a month and tried pitching in a game again and it just didn't feel right.
After that, I got an MRI and they told me that my ligament was torn and I'd have to get Tommy John and here I am now.
Brian Hemminger: Tommy John surgery isn't nearly as scary as it used to be. Hell, three of the current five starters in the Indians rotation have had it (Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Danny Salazar). Have all the medical advances in the surgery eased your mind a bit?
Jonas Wyatt: Yeah, based off all my research and hearing so many people have gotten Tommy John., it's almost like when it's gonna happen, not if it's gonna happen. So many guys are coming back stronger and the success rate is pretty good and over the years, they've made so many advances and I just felt in such good hands with my doctor. It's just something that I've been able to stay positive that everything is going to come back. I'm not too worried. I know it's surgery and anything can happen, but I knew I was in good hands and I'm confident everything will be all right.
Brian Hemminger: Is there anything about the surgery that ended up surprising you?
Jonas Wyatt: The only thing is I remember going under and it seemed like only two seconds had gone by but I was actually out for over three hours. It's kinda crazy how quick time goes by when you're under. The worst thing is the itching. I can't stick anything in the cast because I could do some damage to the stitches so I just have to tough it out and let it itch. It's pretty bad but it goes away after a while as long as you don't think about it.
Brian Hemminger: You had an elbow injury early in high school. Do you think that was something that got aggravated or was this latest injury completely separate?
Jonas Wyatt: You know, I've thought about that too. It was the end of my sophomore year and pretty much the first half of my junior year when I hurt my elbow before. It was the same ligament, my LCL. I never tore it or anything and I got a few MRI at that time but it took me seven months to come back without surgery and it was supposed to be completely healed. But I think it could have been from that, perhaps it had already been injured and it was kinda weak. I'm not really sure how ligaments and all that work but I just kept pitching and it got hurt much worse.
Now I've got a new tendon in there so hopefully it lasts a lot longer this time and won't get hurt again as long as I come back and prepare right and do the right things and take care of my body, I'll be good.
Brian Hemminger: The Indians are known for being patient and careful with their pitchers who've had Tommy John surgery, waiting at least a year before letting a pitcher throw in a game again. Do you have a timetable for your return?
Jonas Wyatt: I'm not 100 percent sure yet because I'm still at home and haven't talked to the trainers or anything, but I'm not in a big hurry to jump back into things because I want to make sure I take the time it needs to heal. I don't want to rush things and have it not heal right. I'll listen to what the trainers have to say and take it step by step and take direction from there.
Brian Hemminger: Do you have any idea what your goals are for the next year or so?
Jonas Wyatt: I think just take this time and get more flexible. I have a full year to stretch and take care of myself. The biggest goal is to come back healthy and just as strong if not stronger and get back out there on the mound doing what I love to do with no more elbow problems or anything bothering me anymore. My biggest thing is preparing in the right way and doing everything I can to get stronger.
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Jonas would like to thank the Indians organization for taking care of him, the trainers and his doctors for doing a good job on his surgery. You can follow him on Twitter @JonasWyatt22.