Jarrod Parker injury: A's SP requires 2nd Tommy John surgery

However, Scott Kazmir, scratched from Monday’s contest, received good news about his injured triceps.

PHOENIX — Just as the Oakland A’s dodged one bullet, they got hit with another.

The bad news is that Jarrod Parker, who was set to start opening day for the A’s, will undergo his second Tommy John surgery next Tuesday and will be out for all of 2014. Parker, though he’s never lived up to the hype that accompanied him as a Diamondbacks prospect, has established himself as a solid innings-eater who takes advantage of the strong defense behind him and hasn’t had any injury problems since his first surgery in 2009. On what he described as a down day for the organization, manager Bob Melvin said, “You know, he’s done so much for us. It’s hard for a guy who’s gone through this before. I really feel for him. As far as the team goes, sure. Of course it’s a blow. We’ll have to do something different.”

Of course, Tommy John surgery isn’t a death sentence for a young pitcher, but the history of players after getting their second is nowhere near as promising. Updating research started by John Shea in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, 25 major league pitchers have had at least two ligament tears that required the ground-breaking surgery pioneered by the late, great Dr. Frank Jobe. Of the starting pitchers, a group that includes Chris Capuano, Darren Dreifort, Jose Rijo and Victor Zambrano, only Capuano was able to successfully come back as a starter with any kind of effectiveness. “You don’t know what the recovery rate is with guys with a second Tommy John,” A’s assistant GM David Forst told reporters, “but unfortunately it’s becoming more frequent.” However, Dr. James Andrews estimated two years ago that “the success rate for pitchers returning to presurgery form after undergoing a second Tommy John procedure is about 20 percent.” Certainly, the A’s have to be worried about Parker’s long-term future.

On the other hand, the good news is that Scott Kazmir, who was scratched from Monday’s start with minor soreness in his triceps, is supposed to be fine. Although the lefty, who came back from obscurity last year and was the main free agent acquisition by the A’s this offseason, will see an orthopedist, the A’s rested their presumptive new Opening Day starter as a precaution, and suggested that he could start Tuesday against the White Sox.

Kazmir’s continued health is going to be key for the defending AL West champions, after he helped key the turnaround for the Indians starting rotation last year. He is projected, with Sonny Gray, to be one of two Oakland starters to have a strikeout rate above the league average in 2014.

Outwardly, the A’s are disappointed but not worried. “We have been through enough seasons to know that five starters isn’t going to be enough to make it,” A’s assistant GM David Forst told reporters. “In this case, five starters didn’t make it to Opening Day … . That’s why we stretched Jesse [Chavez] out from the start of spring training. That’s why we didn’t trade Tommy [Milone]. Now Milone and Chavez will hold down the last two spots in the rotation until AJ Griffin returns from a tendonitis.

Chavez, in particular, seems like an odd choice. Already 30, Chavez has only started twice in the majors in six years, and has a career ERA of 5.48. Working as a multi-inning reliever out of the Oakland bullpen last year, however, he struck out 55 batters in 57 innings and had a 3.92 ERA. He has also been particularly sharp this spring, tossing 12⅔ scoreless innings in four games (two starts), with 12 strikeouts against just two walks. “He’s really coming into his own in the second half of last year and into the playoffs, and he’s having a great spring,” Melvin said. “So this is a guy who has the ability to start. It was all about him getting the confidence and belief he could do it at the big league level, and we have a lot of confidence in him.”

If Kazmir’s injury is more severe than is expected, however, or if another starter goes down, the A’s would have to turn to former Rockies prospect Drew Pomeranz as a last resort. And as pitchers keep dropping in Arizona this spring, it’s fair to wonder how many bullets Oakland can dodge and whether the A’s chances are dead if they’re hit again.

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