VIERA, Fla. - Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Tuesday afternoon that left-handed pitching prospect Sammy Solis will need Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery on his left elbow, and will be sidelined for 12 months. The surgery will be performed in Los Angeles next Tuesday by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the same orthopedic surgeon who performed the procedure on Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.
The 23-year-old Solis, a second-round pick in the 2010 draft, first experienced problems with his left elbow while pitching for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, and was shut down. He saw Dr. Yocum in December, but it was decided that a rehabilitation program would be the best course of action.
"The MRI (in December) showed a slight change from our original baseline MRIs, but because he passed all the physical tests that they put him through, (doctors) thought the most prudent course of action would be to have him rest for a month, then ramp him back up into a throwing program - to see if he could avoid the Tommy John surgery," said Rizzo. "So we did that. He came here, threw a few bullpens and was fine and then felt discomfort again."
Solis, part of the Nationals' accelerated development camp for promising farmhands, was examined by team physician Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, who suspected the problem would need surgical intervention and referred him to Dr. Yocum. Solis flew Tuesday from his home in Phoenix to Los Angeles, where an examination by Dr. Yocum indicated Tommy John surgery was the best course of action. Solis was en route to Phoenix when Rizzo made the announcement.
Rizzo defended the club's conservative, patient approach to Solis, who was 8-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 17 starts between Single-A Hagerstown and Single-A Potomac in 2011.
"I was a little bit more relieved when he passed the tests and ramped up his throwing program and felt good," Rizzo said. "So maybe I thought we'd dodged a bullet there. We always knew this was a possibility, but we felt that instead of cutting on him (at the) first diagnosis, ... we could get through this with rehabilitation. And we couldn't. It cost us a couple of months, but we felt it was prudent for a young pitcher. If two doctors aren't 100 percent sure that Tommy John was needed, I wasn't going to be the one that said it was needed."
Solis will need at least 10 months before he can resume game competition, and it's likely the Nationals will create some sort of simulated game activity for him at the 10-month mark - when most pitchers would be making minor league rehabilitation starts - so that he could be ready for spring training in 2013.
"He's the same surgeon that did (Stephen) Strasburg and (Jordan) Zimmermann, so we feel confident that he should regain his pre-injury form," said Rizzo. "We feel that once he does, he'll be a definite positive factor for us in the future."
Solis, one of the club's top pitching prospects, will visit Dr. Yocum again Monday in Los Angeles before undergoing surgery the next day. He was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in seven AFL starts, In his next-to-last outing in the AFL, Solis struck out nine in four innings.