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Tony Gonsolin to undergo Tommy John surgery

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Tony Gonsolin’s lost season ends with even worse news. The Dodgers right-hander will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday, which will likely sideline him until 2025, the team announced on Monday.

The procedure will be performed at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Gonsolin hasn’t been right physically nearly all year, spending the first three-plus weeks of the season and missing the bulk of spring training with a left ankle injury. He was rushed back after only one minor league rehab start, not yet fully stretched out, because the Dodgers were in need of starting pitching.

That need continued through basically the end of July, when the Dodgers traded for Lance Lynn and got Clayton Kershaw back after his own long injured-list stint. In between, the Dodgers had innings to fill, and Gonsolin filled them, even as his performance waned.

The dam finally burst when Gonsolin allowed five home runs and 10 runs in an August 18 start against the Marlins. The next day, Gonsolin was placed on the injured list, with manager Dave Roberts saying the decision for Gonsolin to keep pitching was a joint call between the pitcher and team.

“It’s something he’s been dealing with for some time,” Roberts said on August 19. “I think all pitchers have something going on with their arms and elbows, with the mileage. But we were all aligned that it made sense for us to continue to give him the baseball.”

Roberts at the time said it was unlikely Gonsolin will pitch again this season. Transferring the right-hander to the 60-day injured list Sunday made that official, coupled with Monday’s news of his surgery.

“I commend him wholeheartedly. I think he’s continued to gain respect of guys in the clubhouse, and never made an excuse,” Roberts said back on August 19. “Was he pain free? Probably not. But I know as an organization in saying and knowing that you’re not going to hurt yourself worse. We’re not going to do that to a player.”

Gonsolin allowed four or more runs in eight of his last 11 starts this season, after doing so only five times in his first 60 career starts before that. His 2023 season ends with 4.98 ERA, 5.81 xERA, and 5.45 FIP in 20 starts.

That last number is important, because Gonsolin signed a two-year contract before the season to avoid salary arbitration that paid him $3.25 million in 2023 and a base salary of $3.4 million in 2024. But he added $500,000 to next year’s base salary for each of 14, 16, 18, and 20 starts this season, putting next year’s salary at $5.4 million. So there was incentive for him to keep pitching, as perverse as that sounds.

It’s hard to reconcile the claim a week and a half ago that Gonsolin continuing to pitch wouldn’t exacerbate his injury, with Monday’s announcement that he needs Tommy John surgery. But Roberts maintained that position on Monday.

“He was asymptomatic. He felt like he could keep pitching and, to be quite honest he could still pitch right now,” Roberts told reporters Monday at Dodger Stadium, per SportsNet LA. But it just wan’t productive. With all pitchers, I’m assuming there’s some damage or tears, and some guys can pitch through it, which Tony did.

“There’s nothing that an MRI showed after his last start that was worse which caused the Tommy John. This is something he had on his mind, and we thought was a potential from the middle of the season.”

One year ago at this time, Gonsolin was on top of the world during his All-Star season and was right in the think of the National League Cy Young Award conversation with a 2.10 ERA and 16-1 record through 23 starts. But he was placed on the injured list with a right forearm strain, which seems to always mean elbow no matter how it’s couched, last August 29, the final Monday of August, just like today’s bad news.

That injury was supposed to only sideline Gonsolin for a few starts, but he missed more than a month, then was rushed back for a short start that never should have happened in the NLDS, putting a terrible end to an otherwise great season.

Now, a year later, there was no great season, only despair, and another even more terrible ending.

Back in spring training, before he sprained his ankle during pitcher fielding drills on the backfields at Camelback Ranch, Gonsolin had optimism for a good year in 2023, telling Kirsten Watson of SportsNet LA after his first Cactus League start, “I just wanna stay healthy the whole season honestly, results will take care of themselves.”

Now, Gonsolin’s next chance at a full, healthy season comes in 2025. Baseball can be a cruel sport sometimes.