Jared Walsh underwent surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in September and provided an update on his recovery in an appearance of MLB Network Radio (Twitter link with audio).
“I feel great,” Walsh said. “I don’t know if I’m exactly 100% but I think if we– if Spring Training started today, I would be fine to go out, do every drill, be on the field, making throws and all that.” Walsh then relays that his surgeon has informed him that his strength will continue growing for the next 6-8 months and even beyond. “I feel great but hopefully I can get even a little bit better.”
The surgery is somewhat common for pitchers, but with a mixed track record. Merrill Kelly underwent the procedure in 2020 but has returned to health and made 60 solid starts over the past two years. On the other hand, Stephen Strasburg has been severely hampered by the issue over the past few years. He underwent surgery in July of 2021 and returned to the mound a year later, but made just one start in 2022. He spoke about the issue in September, saying he hadn’t thrown in months and that he is “not really sure what the future holds.”
On the position player side of things, the surgery is more rare. Walsh and Mike Zunino are the two most recent players to go under the knife, with Zunino getting the procedure in July of last year. He was signed by the Guardians for 2o23 and the two players will make an interesting test case on the viability of rehabilitating from the disorder.
Both players had excellent campaigns in 2021 before the effects of the ailment seemingly dragged their respective performances down in 2022. Zunino launched 33 home runs in 2021 and hit .216/.301/.559 for a wRC+ of 134. Last year, his output felt to a dismal .148/.195/.304 line and 43 wRC+. Walsh hit 29 homers two years ago and slashed .277/.340/.509 for a 126 wRC+, but fell to .215/.269/.374 last year and a 78 wRC+.
For the Angels, it would serve as a tremendous boost if Walsh could return with no ill effects and put that 2022 season behind him. For many years now, they’ve struggled to string victories together despite the presence of superstars like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Lack of depth and injuries like Walsh suffered last year have repeatedly undermined the strong performances at the top of their roster.
It seems the club has made more of a concerted effort to protect against those pitfalls this year, bolstering the roster with various supporting players who can guard against someone requiring a significant absence. The club added a couple of multi-position players by signing free agent Brandon Drury and acquiring Gio Urshela. Should Walsh miss any more time or struggle to get back on track, Drury would likely be first in line for extended time covering first base, with Jake Lamb also in the organization on a minor league deal. Though if Walsh is healthy, it would free Drury up to strengthen the club’s depth in the outfield corners or other infield positions.
The path ahead is fairly uncertain since there are few comparables for the road that Walsh is currently on, though the fact that he’s expressing such optimism is a good sign for now. Spring workouts begin next week and Opening Day is less than two months away.