The Oakland Athletics entered the 2023 season hoping that Ken Waldichuk would play a major part in their rotation. He struggled to start the season and ended up in the bullpen, but seemed to reestablish himself after the All-Star break. However, a subsequent elbow injury clouds his future heading into the 2024 season.
Waldichuk was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the fifth round of the 2019 MLB Draft. The A’s acquired him along with Cooper Bowman, Luis Medina and JP Sears on August 1, 2022 in exchange for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino.
What were the expectations?
After a seven-game cameo appearance at the end of the 2022 season, the hope was that Waldichuk would pitch well enough to be in the A’s Opening Day rotation for the 2023 season.
Waldichuk did end up securing a rotation spot, but it wouldn’t go well. He allowed a combined 14 runs over his first 8 2⁄3 innings in starts against the Angels and the Rays. Over his first nine starts and 46 innings, Waldichuk allowed 13 home runs and produced a 6.85 ERA and a 7.26 FIP before being dropped from the rotation altogether. Waldichuk’s next 12 appearances would come in relief except for two starts as an opener and would produce a 6.23 ERA albeit with a 4.10 FIP. Following the All-Star break, Waldichuk returned to the rotation and pitched better with a 4.04 ERA and a 4.44 FIP over his final 14 games.
What went right? What went wrong?
Overall the numbers were still ugly. Too many walks and too many homers allowed, but the way he pitched at the end of the season was able to salvage at least some confidence going forward. That was until December 1 when the team announced that Waldichuk experienced some discomfort in his left elbow following the season and an MRI revealed a flexor tendon strain and a UCL sprain. Waldichuk opted to go with a conservative treatment which included a Tenex procedure and a PRP injection into his flexor tendon. The last report was that he was doing physical therapy and there was no timetable for when he might resume throwing.
At this point, it is hard to project much of anything for Waldichuk in 2024. If he is able to return to throwing sometime soon and is able to take part in some of spring training, perhaps we will have a better view. Still, those type of injuries usually require Tommy John surgery at some point and that could be in the cards.