Jarrod Parker was dealt more heartbreaking injury news Friday, more than any one pitcher should have to digest over a single career.
An MRI revealed the A’s right-hander suffered a second fracture of the medial epicondyle in his right elbow, the same injury that sidelined him last May as he was nearing a return from his second Tommy John surgery.
The latest injury appears likely to sideline him for this entire season given the time that will be needed for recovery. Whether he pitches ever again — or whether he has the desire to attempt another comeback — has yet to be determined.
This marks the fourth major elbow injury for the 27-year-old Parker. He underwent his first Tommy John surgery in 2009 while a prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization. In March 2014, he re-tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, requiring a second Tommy John surgery.
Then came the first elbow fracture last May, from which he was showing encouraging progress from since spring training began three weeks ago. Parker’s next course of action will be revealed in due time.
What does his absence mean for the A’s?
From the standpoint that any contribution from Parker this season was best viewed as a bonus given his injury history, it doesn’t change a whole lot.
But the A’s starting pitching depth did take a previous hit when they traded right-hander Aaron Brooks to the Cubs for Chris Coghlan and when they designated for assignment left-hander Sean Nolin to clear a roster spot for Khris Davis (Nolin eventually was lost on a waiver claim to Milwaukee).
Parker’s latest injury is another blow to that depth, which means other potential starters take on even more importance. Lefty Felix Doubront, a strong candidate to grab a bullpen spot as a long reliever, could be the next starter in line beyond the projected season-opening five of Sonny Gray, Rich Hill, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn and Chris Bassitt.
Henderson Alvarez’s full recovery and return from shoulder surgery becomes a very important storyline to watch. He’s now throwing bullpen sessions, and the A’s hope to get Alvarez back in May. The talented right-hander would represent a top-of-the-rotation type addition if he comes back at full strength. That chapter has yet to be written.
And the wild card remains 24-year-old lefty Sean Manaea, Oakland’s top pitching prospect.
He has impressed so far this spring. It’s not out of the question he could break camp in the rotation should he dazzle over the final 2 1/2 weeks of spring training. And even if Manaea begins the season at Triple-A Nashville, Parker’s absence only increases the chances of Manaea getting a call-up should a need a rise at the big league level.
So many variables to consider. The one concrete truth in all of this is that Parker has the sympathy of anybody who’s been tuned in to just how hard he’s worked in trying to get himself back on a major league mound.