Marcum needs Tommy John surgery
Jays right-hander expected to miss entire 2009 season
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' worst fears about Shaun Marcum have been realized. On Friday afternoon, the pitcher fought back tears while acknowledging that he required Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on his right arm.
It's a development that will keep Marcum out of Toronto's rotation until 2010 and a loss that instantly weakens the club's starting staff going into next season. A date hasn't been set for the reconstructive procedure, but it will be performed by renowned arm specialist Dr. James Andrews.
"It's terrible -- absolutely awful," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I feel so bad for him. But, he's a young kid. We're going to miss him. He probably won't be in Spring Training until 2010, so that's a big blow to us. That's really tough."
Marcum sounded more concerned about Spring Training prior to next season.
The 26-year-old pitcher was expected to be a fixture in Toronto's rotation, but will now be forced into the role of spectator. Marcum knows that can be a hard situation, especially after having conversations with Casey Janssen, who has been out all season after having surgery on his right shoulder in March.
"It's going to be tough," Marcum said. "I know from when I talked to Casey about not being around this year, it's tough just to sit there. You want to be a part of the team so bad. It's going to be tough next year when Spring Training rolls around and I'm not going to be one of the guys."
As of right now, the Blue Jays can't be exactly sure who will fill out their rotation come Opening Day '09. Marcum is out of the picture, Dustin McGowan could be sidelined until May after having season-ending right shoulder surgery in July, and there's a realistic chance that A.J. Burnett will opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who is at risk of losing his job before next season arrives, said that the sudden loss of Marcum won't impact the club's plans for the coming offseason. Ricciardi said Toronto isn't going to overspend to convince Burnett to stay and the team is inclined to fill the rotation vacancies internally.
"We're not going to do something out of panic," Ricciardi said. "I don't feel like we have to do anything. I feel like we've got young pitchers here who we're pretty much convinced that they can come here and pitch. We'll go with those guys."
Behind ace Roy Halladay and right-hander Jesse Litsch, the list of rotation candidates includes Janssen, David Purcey, Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero. Gaston is giving Scott Richmond a spot start on Sunday with the thought that he could potentially be in the mix for a starting job as well.
"I know for sure that we have three guys who are going to be here," said Gaston, referring to Halladay, Litsch and Purcey. "[Richmond] might be the fourth, so we'd be just trying to find another guy that can step in and help us out. But, I think, if we get some of our guys back that are already hurt, that might help, too."
Marcum won't fit into that last category.
On Tuesday, Marcum exited a start against the Orioles in the third inning after throwing just 52 pitches, including 28 for strikes. Marcum complained of pain in his right forearm as well as numbness in his throwing hand. In June, Marcum was sidelined for a month with a sore right elbow, though he said that injury felt different.
|"You want to be a part of the team so bad. It's going to be tough next year when Spring Training rolls around and I'm not going to be one of the guys."|
|-- Shaun Marcum|
Toronto might be hard-pressed to replace Marcum. While in the rotation this season, Marcum went 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts, during which he struck out 123 and walked 50 over 151 1/3 innings. In 64 career starts for Toronto, dating back to the 2006 season, Marcum has gone 23-15 with a 3.85 ERA.
Marcum -- a third-round selection by the Blue Jays in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft -- emerged as one of the club's top starters last season, posting an 11-4 record with a 3.91 ERA in 25 turns in the rotation. Marcum is hoping he'll be able to return to the same level two seasons from now.
"The good thing is I'm only 26," Marcum said. "Hopefullly, I'll come back better and stronger than I was this year. ... It seems like a lot of guys bounce back a lot quicker from Tommy John. I would be more concerned if it was my shoulder or something like that."
Marcum said he plans on talking to a few of the Tommy John veterans within Toronto's clubhouse. The pitcher will certainly have his pick of experts, considering Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, along with pitchers B.J. Ryan, Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet, Burnett and McGowan have each undergone the operation.
"It seems like we've got more than a handful of guys who have had the surgery on our team," Marcum said. "I'll talk to them, get their opinions on the rehab. That's what everybody says and what I hear, is that the rehab is the toughest part and the only thing that matters."
For the Blue Jays, what matters is trying to field a rotation that can compete in the American League East next year. Ricciardi didn't rule out exploring the trade market this offseason, but he said the club is more inclined to solve the issue from within.
"We've got confidence in our young guys," Ricciardi said. "You didn't know Marcum a couple years ago. You didn't know Litsch a couple years ago. Sometimes you've got to run them out there."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.