DETROIT -- There had been hope Nate Jones would return in 2014 but now his 2015 season is in doubt after he had reconstructive elbow surgery on Tuesday.
After missing most of the first four months with a back injury that required surgery, the White Sox reliever injured his right elbow in his attempt to rehab and get back on the field.
Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure after Jones tore his ulnar collateral ligament, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. Jones, who was in the mix to be the team’s closer this spring, could miss anywhere from 12-to-18 months as he recovers, Hahn said.
“It’s unfortunate for the kid,” Hahn said. “He’s a guy with a lot of upside and somebody we thought would help us this year and next year. And he’s been through a lot going back that first spring training conversation that we had down in Glendale when it was first his back acting out. It’s unfortunate for the kid, but given how hard he works and similarly his makeup, I know he will do everything in his power to get back as soon as he can. We’re just going to have to let biology take its course here as well.”
The right-hander was expected to be a key cog in the White Sox bullpen this season after closer Addison Reed and utility man Hector Santiago were both traded in the offseason.
Jones missed the start of spring camp with a gluteal strain that was later diagnosed as a hip injury before it was finally revealed he had a lower back issue. Jones pitched in eight games in spring and another two regular games before he was placed on the disabled list.
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He had back surgery in May and began to start a throwing program in June and was slowly progressing. Hahn said Jones recently injured his UCL while “ramping up” his throwing. The condition persisted even after a slight cool down/treatment period and the White Sox decided to have Jones further evaluated.
“A lot of times with the UCL tear there’s a specific instance where a player feels a pop so to speak, or something specifically tear,” Hahn said. “That did not happen in this specific occasion. Instead, when he tried to ramp it up he felt some discomfort, which he described as burning in the area of the elbow. We shut him down and tried to treat it up and started to ramp him up again. The burning continued at which point he was diagnosed as having a tear.”
Jones is headed back to Kentucky and will begin his rehab on Monday, Hahn said. Hahn said there’s no specific timetable for Jones’ return but gave a window of 12-to-18 months. The White Sox can’t help but feel disappointed for Jones, who has a 3.55 career ERA and 154 strikeouts in 149 2/3 innings.
“I think as far as the last thing you are thinking of is to have elbow injuries, especially with the back and everything,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You are disappointed for him. You know the potential of him being able to come back and start over in his career and help us all that stuff. You feel bad for him.”