There have been many success stories because of Tommy John surgery. The late Frank Jobe was able to not only save many careers with his revolutionary procedure, but with advances in medical technology, pitchers began coming back stronger. Finding out that a player had torn or damaged an elbow ligament was no longer a death sentence for a career.
Yet, there for all the successes there have been with Tommy John surgery, there have been pitchers that just have not been able to come back successfully. For whatever reason, even after all the rehab and by following the programs, sometimes a pitcher just cannot come back to be the player he once was. That appears to be the fate of John Lamb.
Since undergoing surgery, Lamb had been a disaster in the minors. Since coming back midway through the 2012 season, Lamb has posted a 5-15 record with a 5.92 ERA. Although he was still managing to strike out approximately seven batters per nine innings, Lamb was not the same pitcher he once was. His velocity, which had averaged in the mid 90′s, had decreased to just under 87 MPH last season. Once a top prospect for the Royals, it was fair to wonder if Lamb was ever going to make an impact at the major league level.
Heading into Spring Training, it appeared as though John Lamb may be getting himself back to where he used to be. Lamb had begun working out and eating better, coming into camp with a more mature attitude. It seemed as though, if he was able to find any level of success, that Lamb could have repositioned himself as a back of the rotation starter for the Royals at some point in the future.
Now, it seems as though those hopes are passing by. With reports that John Lamb was throwing in the lower 90′s and appeared to be rejuvenated, it seemed that he may be on the verge of doing just that. In fact, his performance is camp was promising enough where the Royals gave him the start on Saturday.
Instead of that start being the exclamation point that Lamb was on the way back, the exact opposite happened. Lamb was shelled in his outing against the Milwaukee Brewers, allowing four runs while recording only two outs. Instead of the low 90′s that he had been clocked at, Lamb was throwing in the upper 80′s. While Lamb blamed his struggles on mechanical troubles and said that his arm felt fine, that outing was still concerning.
Yes, it is just one Spring Training outing. And yes, John Lamb may be correct when he said that his mechanics were the reason for his struggles. However, after his struggles since returning from Tommy John surgery, it may be fair to wonder if this is not just a minor setback, but the type of pitcher that John Lamb is going to end up being.