It isn't the absolute worst-case scenario for San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain, but his season is in serious jeopardy after being diagnosed with bone chips in his ailing pitching elbow that will ultimately require surgery.
Three surgeons, including Dr. James Andrews, made the recommendation after examining him this week. Now Cain faces the difficult decision of having the surgery right away, or putting it off until the offseason and attempting to pitch through the discomfort for the next two-plus months.
“There’s a good bit of bone chips in there,” Cain said. “We’re trying to figure out whether (surgery) is sometime soon or towards the end of the year. A lot of it depends on what the elbow is going to tell me.”
The surgery would require a three-month recovery time, so even in a best-case scenario Cain would miss the remainder of the regular season and the entirety of the postseason as well. Knowing how competitive Cain is, it's the simple fact that he wouldn't be competing with his team down the stretch that makes it a difficult decision.
That said, he also has to weigh the obvious affect the chips have had on his recent performance. Over his past six starts, Cain is 1-5 with a 5.15 ERA, which is a stark contrast from his 3.39 career ERA over 10 seasons. If that's the Matt Cain San Francisco would be getting the rest of the season, they would obviously much rather he address the issue now and come back strong in 2015. Manager Bruce Bochy seemed to indicate as much late Friday afternoon.
“Chances are, if you’re putting odds on it, the odds are not going to be that he will pitch,” Bochy said.
It's a tough spot for Cain to be in, but he probably knew this day was going to come eventually.
“I’ve had them for 10 years,” Cain said of the chips. “They’ve always been there. Now they’re mad and letting me know about it. For some reason something happened. They’ve gotten to a different spot. It’s never been a problem before.”
Timing is everything, and the timing here just plain stinks for Cain and for the Giants, who are a half-game up in the NL wild card and also fighting for the NL West division crown. They added Jake Peavy before the trade deadline, which eases Cain's potential loss a bit, but the rotation won't be the same without their right-handed hoss going every fifth day.
With that in mind, every time we hear a pitcher is dealing with elbow discomfort and visits Dr. James Andrews, we cringe and expect to hear the worst. If there's a silver lining, it's that Cain was found to have no ligament damage, meaning he should be good to go in 2015 regardless of when he has the operation.
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