Hanrahan to undergo second Tommy John surgery

His comeback attempt now on hold, former All-Star closer released by Tigers

Hanrahan to undergo second Tommy John surgery

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Joel Hanrahan's comeback attempt is over. The former All-Star closer and invitee to Tigers camp will undergo another Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

When Dr. Keith Meister performs the procedure March 18 at his office in Texas, it'll be Hanrahan's second Tommy John surgery in less than 24 months. Hanrahan isn't calling this a career-ending procedure, but he'll have an even tougher path to try to come back than he did the first time.

"It's going to be a slow rehab," said Hanrahan. "[Meister] told me he wants me to go nine months without picking up a ball, and usually that's four [months]. I'm going to give it what I've got, do the rehab and see where it leads. Hopefully I'll be able to make it through and hopefully get back on the field someday."

Hanrahan had been trying to get back to pitching since last April, when the Tigers signed him to a Major League contract after watching him throw for teams. He spent the summer rehabbing in Lakeland, but he never got to a point where he could pitch off a mound pain-free.

After repeated attempts to throw last summer ended with the same soreness, Meister told him that he might require a second Tommy John surgery before noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews suggested Hanrahan rest his arm and start throwing again in January. The Tigers were willing to take another shot, signing the right-hander to an incentive-laden Minor League contract with a non-roster invite to camp, but they never got their hopes up about adding Hanrahan to their bullpen.

The Tigers unconditionally released Hanrahan on Wednesday.

Hanrahan threw off a mound twice and cut short his bullpen session Feb. 21 due to soreness in his elbow. He'd played catch since then, but never got back on the mound.

Hanrahan had been hoping the problem was scar tissue. When the soreness didn't go away, Hanrahan went back to Meister.

"He kind of basically told me the same thing this time," Hanrahan said. "At that point [last summer], I didn't believe it, because it didn't hurt that bad and I don't know what blowing out your ligament feels like necessarily. I thought there was no way that was true. I was still throwing, and some days I could throw pretty good, and some days I couldn't."

Once his arm started hurting in non-baseball activities, Hanrahan realized it was time.

"Trying to play in the [clubhouse] ping pong tournament, I realized, 'Yeah, that needs to get fixed,'" Hanrahan said.

At that point, it became a quality-of-life issue. Even if Hanrahan never pitches again, he was going to need the surgery in order to do basic non-baseball activities.

"I can't golf," Hanrahan said. "I can't pull back the strings on a bow. I can't play ping pong. I've got a 2-year-old son that I look forward to having a lot of time with. It's one of those quality-of-life things."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.