The good news was that Brian Wilson's elbow strain -- his strained Ulnar Collateral Ligament, if you want get all technical about it -- was just moderate. Sometimes, pitchers with moderate strains elect for rehab rather than surgery. Lengthy rehab, for sure. But that can seem better than Tommy John Surgery, for sure.
It's going to be TJS for The Beard, though. Here's Steve Kroner (via SFGate):
In his late-afternoon news conference Wednesday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that Brian Wilson will have Tommy J0hn surgery Thursday. Dr. James Andrews will handle the operation, with one of the Giants’ doctors, Ken Akizuki, present. It will be the second Tommy John surgery for Wilson, who had his first while at LSU.
Wilson obviously won't pitch again this season, with sometime next spring targeted for his return to the field. Right now, Giants manager Bruce Bochy says that Santiago Casilla (and not Sergio Romo) will get most of the save opportunities.
The headline is probably a bit deceptive. It's not like Giants closer Brian Wilson went to see Dr. Lewis Yocum and got good news. A moderate elbow strain is still the kind of injury that can require Tommy John surgery. There weren't high-fives exchanged in the doctor's office after the diagnosis. Probably because of the elbow injury. Unless they did it left-handed. But that'd be awkward.
If Wilson's UCL is not fully torn, it could be considered a Grade 2 (on a scale of three) -- an injury that some pitchers opt to rehab rather than have surgery. Groeschner would not comment on that, except to say that surgery was not a slam dunk until all the facts are in.
Wilson will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, but it sounded like Wilson was resigned to surgery, telling the Giants broadcasters that he was going to visit them regularly in the booth and "win an Emmy." He had a positive outlook on his prognosis, even before the word "moderate" was used.
"The first time I got (Tommy John surgery), I looked at it as an opportunity to throw harder," Wilson said on Sunday. "You know, 21-year-old kid, I get to throw harder? That’s pretty awesome.
"The likelihood is, yeah the season's over with," said Wilson. "I'll be getting a couple more opinions but we all know what structural damage is. The likelihood of me throwing again this year is minimal."
Baggarly noted that Wilson was in good spirits Sunday morning, which was clear from the choice Wilson quotes Baggarly tweeted earlier, compiled below:
"It’s a year. No big deal. If I plan on playing forever, then this is a small percentage of my career. ... I don’t think (bullpen is) going to falter. I think we’re going to take the West no matter what, whether I’m here or not. ... By no stretch of the [imagination] is my journey over. This is a mild bump in my road. Nothing has been easy when I’ve pitched or lived."
Wilson has been the Giants full-time closer since 2008, and saved 48 games for San Francisco in 2010. With Wilson out, manager Bruce Bochy will rely on a closer-by-committee system with relievers Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez.
The question: If Wilson misses the rest of the season, how much does that hurt the Giants? The answer might surprise you.
For what it's worth, Giants manager Bruce Bochy seems to remain comfortable with the bullpen he's got. Here's what he said, via The San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins:
"It's always nice to have one closer, but a committee works, too," Bochy said before Saturday night's game. "We've done that. We'll probably have to make slight adjustments as we go - who's available and who's not, those types of things. But we've got experienced guys who are comfortable pitching late in the game. This is certainly a tough loss for us, but the guys that we have could soften this loss - like the great job they did filling in last year when Willie was gone."
From a pragmatic standpoint, how much will this hurt the Giants? Not that much, most likely. FanGraphs has Wilson tied with Nick Masset and Wilton Lopez in WAR, and I'm pretty sure those are computer-generated players. I'm not sure I want to go that far when it comes to assigning (or not assigning) value to closers, so I'll guess that the truth is somewhere between the closers-are-essential mindset and the WARcentric mindset. And that still means that this probably won't cost the Giants that many wins, especially if the status quo was Brian Wilson throwing 88 mph.