Lucas Giolito surgery update is best news Red Sox could’ve hoped for

2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training
2024 Boston Red Sox Spring Training / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

When the Boston Red Sox revealed that Lucas Giolito was experiencing elbow discomfort after his first March start against the Twins, the Red Sox and their fans feared the worst.

Early imaging of Giolito's right arm showed a partial ulnar collateral ligament tear and flexor strain. It seemed like Gioltio was headed for Tommy John surgery — typical Boston bad luck.

But the hurler was able to avoid the worst-case scenario. On March 12, Giolito underwent surgery to repair his right UCL with an internal brace procedure instead. The procedure was completed successfully, the Red Sox announced on Wednesday.

The avoidance of Tommy John surgery was the best possible outcome for Gioltio and the Sox. Tommy John surgery requires the total reconstruction of the UCL, with donor tendons taken from elsewhere in the body. The internal brace procedure fixes the existing ligament with "a strong, tape-like suture material" and therefore shortens the recovery time from the procedure.

Tommy John surgery is dreaded as a season-ending and potentially career-altering option for pitchers. The recovery time rests somewhere between 12-18 months for the intense repairs. The internal brace procedure has the potential to cut that recovery time in half, according to the website of Ian S. Rice, an orthopedic surgeon operating out of Cincinnati.

When Boston first announced that Giolito would need his right UCL repaired, the extent of the surgery he would need was unknown. The Red Sox and Giolito dodged a bullet with the outcome — if all goes according to plan with his UCL reconstruction, he could be able to pitch almost all of the second season of his two-year deal with the Sox.

Red Sox and Lucas Giolito opt for UCL surgery with shorter recovery time

The internal brace procedure is a relatively new innovation for repairing ligaments, but it has been executed on MLB players with success. Boston's own Trevor Story had the surgery in Jan. 2023 and he returned to play in early August of the same year. While a seven-month recovery time is far from ideal, it's a much faster timeline than Tommy John surgery requires.

Giolito's recovery should take longer than seven months, as his arm plays a bigger role in his position than Story's does. But Sox fans should take solace in his tenure with Boston not being entirely lost.

Even if Giolito's recovery takes nine months, he could be fully ready to return to action by December and he could have nearly a full offseason of practice in front of him before he would be expected to start for the Sox in 2025.

Boston has plenty of time and options to fix its rotation for 2024, but also to have a better staff ready for Gioltio's return next season.

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