Update: Before tonight's game, Susan Slusser quoted David Forst as saying Griffin will see Dr. Thomas Melhoff on Tuesday to get a second opinion on the elbow, and that no decision has been made re: surgery. Signs still point to Griffin getting Tommy John, but nothing is set in stone.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the A's were known for something called "pitching depth." But that depth took a big hit for the second time this season today, as the news broke that AJ Griffin will likely become the second Oakland starter to miss all of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
A lot has changed since March, when depth was a sight to behold. Oakland had at least seven MLB-caliber starting pitchers on its roster before Jarrod Parker went down with an injury during Spring Training, leaving the team without an ace — or at least, an ace with a dozen MLB starts under his belt — and putting the front of the rotation in the hands of Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. The A's have watched Dan Straily and Tommy Milone struggle in the early going, but the assumption had been that upon his return from the disabled list, Griffin would be able to step in and pitch well from the back end of the rotation.
Unfortunately, what was previously diagnosed as flexor tendinitis in Griffin's right elbow has progressed to something far worse. Griffin apparently hasn't improved health-wise since that diagnosis on March 15, and Oakland's rotation has taken another long-lasting hit.Griffin's injury makes him the latest in a line of talented young pitchers forced to go under the knife in 2014. In addition to Parker, talented arms like Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Ivan Nova, Cory Leubke, and Josh Johnson, to name a few, have suffered arm injuries and will miss at least a full season.
If Tommy John does end up being what's needed, the A's will tie Atlanta for most Tommy John surgeries undergone by big-leaguers since 2010.
Griffin's new long-term prognosis changes little in the present — Oakland's starting rotation is unchanged, as is its 40-man roster, as Griffin began the season on the 60-day DL because of the flexor tendinitis.
In the long term, Griffin's injury is particularly meaningful for rotation depth. It's almost a sure bet that another Oakland starter will visit the disabled list at some point this season, and at this point in time, the first call-up would go to Josh Lindblom, who allowed two earned runs in 4⅔ innings in a spot start on April 2, the second game of the a doubleheader against Cleveland. Eventually, the fallout from Griffin's surgery could involve Drew Pomeranz making the drive up I-80 to get stretched out as the next man up in Oakland's rotation.