Yankees reliever will have elbow surgery

LAKELAND, Fla. – The Yankees’ bullpen took its first serious hit of the season, as the team learned Tuesday that it would be without Zack Britton for the foreseeable future. The left-hander is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove a splinter of bone in his left elbow.

Britton, arguably the most important piece in the bullpen, underwent an MRI exam Monday after experiencing pain after a bullpen session Sunday.

He is expected to return to New York on Wednesday and the procedure is scheduled to be performed by team physician Chris Ahmad at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

The procedure is expected to bypass Britton for at least several months, as it will be closed for six to eight weeks. He probably won’t be back in the Yankees bullpen until mid-June at the earliest.

Third baseman Gio Urshela underwent a similar operation in December and only recently returned to action.

“I appreciate everyone’s support,” Britton posted on Twitter on Tuesday. “We all have daily challenges that we have to overcome to reach our goals. You just have to keep moving forward! I’ll take care of this for the next week and be back as soon as I can. “

Britton told The Post on Saturday that he was being carried slowly this spring due to a fight with COVID in January, causing him to lose a lot of weight.

At the time, Britton was optimistic that he would be ready in time for Opening Day, but that reality changed a day later when he experienced discomfort after a bullpen session on Sunday.

Yankees' Zack Britton elbow surgery
Yankees reliever Zack Britton will undergo elbow surgery.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I was just trying to gain weight,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s been pitching pretty well early spring, but after the bullpen [Sunday], who succeeded and felt nothing, it was after the fact [the soreness began]. “

At the time, Britton thought it would be ready for Opening Day on April 1. That reality has now changed.

Before the diagnosis was made public Tuesday, Boone was cautiously optimistic that the injury would not lead to season-ending Tommy John surgery. And while Britton hopes to return midseason, it’s a significant blow to the bullpen.

Boone said the offseason illness “slowed him down a bit in his development. [to spring training]. “

Britton, 33, has been excellent since reaching a Baltimore trade at the 2018 deadline. He signed a three-year contract with the Yankees after the season, which included a fourth-year option. The Yankees chose that option for 2022 after last season, so they still owe Britton $ 27 million over the next two years.

Britton was expected to be behind a bullpen that includes Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green, as well as new hires Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson. The Yankees traded Adam Ottavino to Boston during the offseason to release the salary.

Now, they won’t be that deep in an area that is among their greatest strengths.

“As much as we look at April 1, that’s a day,” Boone said. “Most importantly, we want this to be properly diagnosed, properly treated, and for Britton to be in the best place to be at his best.”

With Britton out, he will force the Yankees to put another arm on their pen. Nick Nelson or Adam Warren are listed as candidates for the team, along with others like Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa, who probably already have positions.

Britton missed time after tearing his Achilles tendon prior to the 2018 season. He also dealt with a left forearm strain during the early part of the 2017 season, which put him on the disabled list.

It’s the second elbow pain a Yankees pitcher has experienced this spring training, when Clarke Schmidt suffered a common extensor tendon strain last month. It is similar to tennis elbow and an unusual injury for a pitcher. The right-hander has been shut down and is expected to miss at least the first month of the season.


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