FA Reliever Seth Maness ~ The First MLB Player To Undergo Alternative Elbow Surgery

By Beth Chapman
Jan. 15, 2017

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Seth Maness, ground ball and double play specialist, was release by the Cardinals this offseason into free agency. He was reportedly to undergo Tommy John's surgery for his elbow injury that shortened his 2016 season to only 29 games and 31.2 innings pitched. He closed his shortened season 2-2/3.41 ERA.  More than likely, being ready for the 2017 season was doubtful. 

Former reliever Seth Maness for the Cardinals. Mid-to-late inning double play specialist. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images)

With recent news, Maness became the first professional baseball player to undergo a fairly new procedure to correct his elbow issue. Primary repair” versus Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL. As we know, a pitcher who does go through TJ surgery, they are out a full season (upwards of 18 months recovery) before they are able to return mound. With this new procedure, recovery time is a predicted seven months and would allow a pitcher to return to work far sooner. "It is a repair and buttressing of the existing ligament at the bone, not Tommy John’s reconstruction of the ligament."

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (January 12, 2017) was the first to report on this new procedure. One that is being monitored; and, if proven to be successful, would be a major breakthrough for modern sports surgical procedures. Yes, Maness became the first 'guinea pig' for this type of surgery by a professional baseball player. Being put under, reportedly he expected to be another TJ victim. But, hoped, the primary repair would be the result. As it stands now, from the article, the surgeon can not say absolutely "which" procedure can be done until he actually sees the damage "inside" the elbow. 

Per Goold, "He [Maness] woke up a potential trailblazer."  That was soon after his 2016 season ended in August; and, with surprising reports, he would have to undergo surgery. Now ~ 

Maness already playing catch, a bit less than five months after surgery, with former teammate Kolton Wong at John Burroughs High School in Ladue - January 6, 2017 (Photo by David Carson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Maness, 28, completed three sets of throws at a distance of 90 feet on Friday in the John Burroughs School gymnasium. He is scheduled to take the mound next week for the first time since his Aug. 18 surgery. He has been encouraged by how his arm feels at every stride in his rehab, which is accelerated from the usual Tommy John timetable. The Cardinals did not offer him a contract in early December, making him a free agent — one of the leading groundball relievers now available to any team. Sooner than expected." (Derrick Goold)

Maness' goal is to be ready by Opening Day. And, seemingly, proving the primary repair surgery has been a success. At least in these first few months.  Longevity, only time will tell. "Now, the doctor and his patient are eager to watch as Maness’ first time toeing the rubber could be, in their words, “a significant step forward” for the industry. Another doctor who performs the repair surgery, Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, said there is “cautious optimism.” He is just a week away from throwing from the mound. 

However, in my opinion, this new procedure could become a definite alternative (dependent on circumstances of tear) for MLB pitchers in the future. The potential to be an excellent choice, successful repair and with less recovery time. 

 Being a free agent, all Maness needs now is a team to fully prove - he's ready to get back to the business of baseball. To return to work.