Hanrahan needs second Tommy John; Tigers release him

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – It’s the worst kind of déjà vu for Joel Hanrahan.

After two years of grueling and painstaking rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, Hanrahan found out Tuesday that he has to do it all over again.

“The first one was a failed surgery,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “They are going to do it over again on March 18.”

With that, Hanrahan’s time with the Tigers is over. Whether his baseball career is over remains to be seen.

“It’s going to be two more years of doing the same thing I’ve been doing the last two years,” said Hanrahan, who plans to resettle back in Texas and have the surgery with Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. “We will see what happens. I am not going to sit here and say I’m not going to do this or I’m not going to do that.

“Who knows? I’ve been in professional baseball for 15 years. We will see where it takes me. My pitching might be over. My body may tell me that. But my mind is not telling me that.”

Baseball aside, Hanrahan said having the second surgery is a quality of life decision.

“If people tell me I’ve got to quit playing baseball, I still have to have the surgery done,” he said. “I can’t golf. I can’t pull the strings back on a bow. I can’t play ping pong. I have a two-year-old son I look forward to having a lot of time with.”

Hanrahan, before the first surgery (which was done by Dr. James Andrews), was one of the top closers in baseball, saving 76 games over two years for the Pirates. The Tigers took a chance on him last year and again this offseason — giving him two, $1 million deals, with contingencies in case the arm never recovered.

Dombrowski said the team was not counting on Hanrahan, but that it would have been a nice bonus if he was able to pitch.

“It was a long shot,” he said. “But it was taking a long time to feel good. Usually at 20 months you start to feel solid. And he wasn’t.”

Dr. Meister suggested to Hanrahan that he would need to re-do the surgery last winter.

“At that point, I didn’t believe it because it didn’t hurt that bad,” Hanrahan said. “I didn’t know what blowing out a ligament felt like. I hurt my forearm the first time. I could still throw, some days I could throw pretty good, some days I couldn’t.”

Hanrahan only got through one full bullpen session with the Tigers this spring. But it was during the Tigers’ ping pong tournament that he knew he wasn’t right.

“I knew when I couldn’t play ping pong that I had to get it fixed,” he said. “It’s going to be a slow rehab. Meister told me he wanted me to go nine months without picking up a ball. Usually, it’s four. But I am going to give it what I got, do the rehab and see where it leads me.

“Hopefully, I will make it through and get back on the field again someday.”

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky