Surgery would be last option for Jeimer Candelario’s ailing wrist

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Jeimer Candelario

Detroit — From the sound of it, the only way to truly fix Jeimer Candelario’s ailing left wrist is with surgery. And the last thing the Detroit Tigers and Candelario want is to have surgery.

Rock and a hard place.

“Any time, with any joint, surgery is your final option,” Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter said Sunday. “You will go for two, three non-surgical rehabs and make sure they fail before you cut. Because there are no guarantees. It’s easy to say you get surgery and it’ll never happen again.

“But it’s not like the game Operation where you just open him up and the problem is right there on top and you take it out. You have to cut through tissue and other fascia and other muscle to get where you are going. And those things have to be repaired on the way out, once you fixed what you fix. It’s not an easy surgery.”

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The Tigers sent Candelario for an MRI Sunday, just to make sure there was no new damage in the wrist. There was not. The MRI revealed no structural damage. He was replaced in the lineup by Pete Kozma.

The plan for now is for Candelario to play through the pain — as he has, productively, the last two seasons.

“He’s fought it all year,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He had it when he was with the Cubs. It acts up when he takes a funky swing, usually when he’s hitting right-handed, and he gets a bite in there. Most of the time he can play through it.”

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Candelario’s pain is caused by damage to a ligament deep in his wrist. It’s called Triangle Fibrocartilage Complex. It’s a ligament that essentially stabilizes the two bones on the outside of his wrist.  The pain comes after he rolls his hands on his follow-through; his right hand comes off the bat and the full weight of the bat is borne by the left wrist.

Carlos Guillen battled through it successfully without surgery in his time in Detroit.

“People play with it their whole careers,” Teter said. “There are guys on the team right now who have it. It comes down to whether you can play with it or not. If it gets to the point where you can’t, then surgery may be your only option left.

“But it’s not the greatest option.”

Teter said if Candelario had the surgery at the end of the season, there would be no guarantee he’d be ready to play by the start of spring training.

“You can come back from it, it’s not career-threatening,” he said. “But it’s not an easy rehab. Getting back into a hitting progression takes a while because, again, you are talking about all the weight at the end and you have to reproduce what caused the pain in the first place — after you’ve had it surgically altered.”

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For now, Teter said, it’s a matter of managing symptoms and maintaining strength.

“Right now it’s pain control and motion,” he said. “We are trying to keep him loose and keep the motion because the body always tries to cut motion down to protect itself when it’s hurt.”

Based on how the season goes and how the condition either progresses or deteriorates, the Tigers could shut him down before the end of the season to have the surgery.

“No surgery right now,” Gardenhire said. “It’s not a good surgery. You have to get deep in there and you could actually hurt other things trying to fix it. It’s not a good surgery to have and it’s not like he has to have it.

“It’s just a matter of playing with the pain. During the baseball season, there is no time for it to heal.”