NAME: Justin Thompson
TEAM: Texas Rangers
INJURY: Torn rotator cuff on pitching arm
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Baseball: Eddie Perez, Atlanta Braves; Rodney Meyers, San Diego Padres; Dave Berg, Florida Marlins; Jamey Wright, Milwaukee Brewers
In the last 15 years, at least two other pitchers have had two shoulder surgeries within a year and come back to pitch successfully in the majors -- Bret Saberhagen and Mark Leiter.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Rangers left-hander Justin Thompson had surgery on August 27 last year -- while he was with the Detroit Tigers -- to repair tears in the edge of the shoulder joint socket and smooth out fraying in the rotator cuff.
Thompson felt no pain until he was in the final stages of his rehabilitation from the initial surgery. He went through spring training and through three minor league rehabilitation starts before experiencing any abnormal pain over and above the usual stress from conditioning. On April 25, in what was supposed to be his final rehab start before returning to the active roster, he threw more than 100 pitches for the first time. He felt significant fatigue after that outing. In every successive attempt to throw off the mound, the pain increased. Still, he was recalled from a medical rehab May 1 in the minor leagues, and appeared close to joining the Rangers until he continued to have soreness in his left shoulder.
Thompson underwent additional surgery on May 12 to repair the tear in his left rotator cuff. The decision for more surgery on Thompson's pitching shoulder was made May 10 after an MRI and examination by orthopaedist James Andrews, MD, in Birmingham, Ala.
Thompson made his major league debut with the Tigers on May 27, 1996. Since then, he has won 36 games and lost 43, with an ERA of 3.98. He has struck out 427 batters in 647 innings. He led the club in innings pitched, strikeouts, and complete games in 1997 and 1998. He was tops in the AL with 12 pickoffs in 1998.
The southpaw was 9-11 with a 5.11 ERA last year for the Tigers before going down with the rotator cuff injury on August 27. Thompson was part of the nine-player deal that sent Juan Gonzalez to Detroit before the 2000 season. He has yet to pitch for the Rangers.