Athletics closer Trevor Rosenthal may undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, miss additional time

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The Oakland Athletics made a relatively pricey expenditure in February when they signed reliever Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year deal worth $11 million. The A’s envisioned Rosenthal replacing the departed Liam Hendriks as their closer. Alas, that hasn’t come to fruition. Nearly a week into the season, Rosenthal still hasn’t made his debut for the A’s; worse yet, it doesn’t appear that he’s anywhere close to changing that.

Rather, A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters on Wednesday that Rosenthal could be heading for surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, according to Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. If Rosenthal does undergo the operation, he could miss an additional 12 weeks based on the traditional recovery period, per Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. That would put Rosenthal back sometime in mid-to-late July.

Although thoracic outlet syndrome surgery doesn’t have the name brand recognition that Tommy John surgery does, it’s arguably more threatening to a pitcher’s career. As Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs concluded in June 2020: “the range of outcomes is quite wide when it comes to pitchers who have undergone surgery to correct TOS, and there aren’t a ton of success stories.” There are, however, a number of tales of pitchers who haven’t recovered from the surgery, including most famously Matt Harvey.

Rosenthal essentially saved his career last season, making 23 appearances split between the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres and compiling a 1.90 ERA and a 4.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The previous season had seen Rosenthal falter, largely with the Washington Nationals, as he walked 26 batters and allowed 24 runs in 15 innings.

The A’s won their first game on Wednesday afternoon against the Los Angeles Dodgers, bringing their record to 1-6. The A’s haven’t yet faced a save situation, but it reasons that Melvin would rely on some combination of Jake Diekman, Sergio Romo, and Lou Trivino to close down games during Rosenthal’s absence. 

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