Wilson tears elbow ligament again
Catcher faces more rehab after second Tommy John surgery
DETROIT -- Tigers catcher Vance Wilson expected he was simply taking a pause in his rehab when he came up to Detroit this homestand. As it turns out, he has to hit the reset button.
What was initially thought to be a tear in scar tissue that had stopped Wilson's rehab from right elbow ligament replacement surgery last month was actually a torn ligament. He'll have to undergo another Tommy John surgery -- probably next week -- and begin the rehab process all over again.
It was a clearly disheartening development for the veteran backup catcher, who had been an underrated presence on the Tigers' 2006 World Series team and had originally hoped to be back in action when this season started.
"At least I know what to expect," Wilson said. "But in the same sense, the rehab is so mentally grueling. It's like you're just kicked in the head every day. So to think about going through that again, it's tough. But in the same sense, what else am I going to do?"
Wilson missed the entire 2007 season when troubles throwing the ball in Spring Training were eventually pegged to a ligament tear. He had surgery last June and spent the rest of the year and offseason rehabbing before coming to camp this spring. His progress came slower than hoped in Spring Training, especially throwing, and he stayed back when the season started.
He began catching in extended spring games last month when he felt a pop in his elbow. The expectation was that it was a tear in scar tissue, another part of the process, and the Tigers used the time to bring him back up to Detroit.
Once he started trying to resume throwing this week, his elbow still wasn't responding well.
"Just playing catch, it still wasn't right," Wilson said. "Once I got back to 50 feet, I had popping and grinding. I could just tell my elbow was loose. And they say after you pop scar tissue, it's like five to seven days [before it feels good throwing again]. Well, it's been three weeks, so I kind of knew something was probably going on."
An MRI exam from Dr. Stephen Lemos revealed the tear.
At age 35, the news leaves Wilson with a decision to make. He's in the last season of a two-year contract, so any comeback might have to take place under a Minor League contract with a club, whether it's Detroit or somewhere else. Regardless, Wilson plans on having the surgery.
"The only thing you need the ligament for is to throw a baseball," Wilson said. "Even if I don't come back and play, I imagine I'll do something in baseball. I want to be able to throw. And I also have an 8-year-old girl who plays softball. So for quality of life afterwards, I'd get it for that."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.