At first, it seemed as though Aaron Barrett simply wanted to make light of his appearance at the Nationals' WinterFest Sunday morning, opting to roll in to his media session driving a red four-wheel scooter. But his entrance, though humorous, gave way to a more newsworthy nugget: The 27-year-old reliever needed crutches to walk as he stepped out of the cart.
Barrett, whose season ended prematurely after he underwent Tommy John surgery in September, revealed that he recently had surgery to fix bone spurs and bone chips in his left ankle. The original diagnosis of the issue was actually shared with him after a MRI done last December, but Barrett said he decided to pitched through any potential discomfort for all of 2015. However, now that his Tommy John rehab will sideline him for an extended period of time, he said he might as well take care of everything else that was bothering him.
"Since I'm out [recovering from Tommy John], it was just best case scenario to get [the ankle] fixed now so I don't have any problems moving forward with my throwing program," he said. "All in all, I'm officially fixed and ready to come back a new man."
As for the elbow rehab, Barrett believes that he's ahead of schedule. He said he's already doing workouts, and hopes to be able to play catch by February.
"I feel great," Barrett said. "I actually have more range of motion now than before I had surgery. So I think that's probably a pretty good sign. So I'm happy with the progress. "
Barrett also delved into what led up to his eventual elbow injury, intimating that early-season overuse was a major factor.
"I think I pitched in 30 of the first 60 games and was hot in 15 additional to those, so when you're hot in 45 of the first 60 games, I think it's a pretty heavy workload," he said. "Obviously I was trying to manage that the best I that I could, but it eventually caught up to me. It is what it is and I'm ready to come back stronger than ever."
Typically, those who undergo Tommy John surgery take up to a year (or more) before they're pitching in the big leagues again. Barrett may be ahead of schedule, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to make his 2016 debut sooner than expected.