[I]t is widely accepted that the success rate for pitchers returning from rotator cuff surgery is lower than the return rate for Tommy John surgery. Both happen all the time in the sport. And yet the latter has become fairly routine over the years to the point where pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery often return to their previous level of performance within a year or so.
Such isn't the case with rotator cuff tears. It isn't that medical science has stalled on the subject, it is simply a case of more complex mechanics with the shoulder.
"Rotator cuff surgery is trying to repair a frayed tendon, comparable to sewing a small hole together or sewing a large hole together with shades of gray in between," said Dr. David Lintner, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist as well as head team physician for the Houston Astros. "The main task with Tommy John surgery [is] you are reconnecting a cable or tendon. With the rotator cuff, you're talking about the shoulder and repairing a muscle and a tendon. But it's more than just repairing it, you have to be able to repair the muscle and yet have it be extremely flexible."
Let's assume the worst about CMW's meeting with Dr. Andrews tomorrow, because that's the GM's job, isn't it? Assume that Chien Ming Wang never returns to be an effective major league pitcher. Assume that the crucial pivot at the #3 spot in the rotation unfilled for the future of the Yankees.
1) Watch Joba Chamberlain develop and re-sign Andy Pettitte. This is the simplest option for the Yanks, but the one that offers the most opening for second guessing. The 2010 return of Phil Hughes to the rotation could highlight the appeal of this strategy for those not in the Hughes-to-the-pen camp.
2) Trade for a back-end starter. I'm intrigued by veteran Jarrod Washburn; he's been average over his career (1.30 WHIP), though he's having a career year for the Mariners (.251BABIP vs .280 career). He's just an '09 rental though, so I wouldn't give up anything significant for him. Furthermore, if the rumors that the M's wanted GGBG and Melky are true, it's a sign that they are keeping the Yanks in the discussions just for the specter of having the Yankees in the discussion.
3) Halladay. Roy Halladay. Joba and Jesus or Phrachise and Ajax. Put it all on the table to make AJ Burnett the #3 behind Halladay and CC Sabathia.
4) Slog through the 2009 season, then turn to the free agent market for help. Washburn, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, John Lackey, Erik Bedard, even Jose Contreras mark a deep if mediocre batch of starters who will be available for only cash.