Former All-Star closer Glen Perkins pitched in only two games in 2016 before he was shutdown due to shoulder pain. It wasn’t until June that doctors discovered the labrum in Perkins’s shoulder had come completely detached from the bone, requiring extensive surgery to fix. Perkins had the surgery, and has been recovering ever since.
The delayed diagnosis and long recovery are not a surprise. A torn labrum is basically the worst possible injury a pitcher can suffer, and it’s not easy to detect. It’s worse than a ulnar collateral ligament injury, which is the type that requires Tommy John’s. As Will Carroll wrote a couple years ago:
The leading minds in baseball medicine are flummoxed by the labrum. Doctors can't agree on how to detect a tear, don't know the best way to fix one, and aren't sure why, almost without fail, a torn labrum will destroy a pitcher's career. ... [I]f pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed.
Despite this, Perkins remains optimistic about his future. "It feels better than it did before surgery," Perkins told reporters over the weekend. "I know that. It feels strong and more stable. I don't have the sensations I had before the surgery. So far, so good."
While Perkins is on schedule with his rehabilitation, he’s about three weeks behind schedule when it comes to his usual preseason preparation. He still hopes to pitch in a spring training game by mid-March, and start with the team on opening day, April 3rd. However, it sounds like basically any sort of set-back whatsoever will mean he’ll start the year on the DL.
If you ask me, it sounds like that’s pretty likely. Perkins might say his shoulder feels better, but he also hasn’t been throwing anywhere near the major league level. Given the type of injury, it’s pretty likely returning to that level will bring along complications.
Perkins, though, seems to recognize that chances for him returning to his previous form are exceptionally slim. As he told reporters:
“When you throw baseballs 96, 97 miles an hour for three or four years, guys don’t come out on the other end of that healthy,” Perkins said. “So [if] it was meant to be, that’s just what was meant to happen. I’ve done everything I can to rehab this and hopefully that means that I’ll have success this year and be healthy. There’s no guarantee of that but whatever happens, I’m fine with, I know that I’ve given it everything I have so far.”
“I want to play. This year my goal isn’t to make an All-Star team or have a zero ERA–I just want to be healthy,” he said. “To be able to throw and not have my back hurt, not have my shoulder hurt.”
“When it’s my chance to pitch, I don’t want to have to tell Mollie [manager Paul Molitor], ‘I’ve gotta take today off,’” Perkins said. “And that’s all I’m really hoping for. With what I’ve gone through, I think that’s a realistic goal for me.”
Good luck, Glen.