NEW YORK (AP) — Nathan Eovaldi might never throw another pitch for the New York Yankees, and his entire baseball future is suddenly uncertain.
The right-hander revealed Tuesday he will miss the remainder of this season and all of next year because of two tears in his elbow that require serious surgery. It's a stunning setback for the Yankees, who hoped Eovaldi would be a key cog in their rotation for several seasons when they acquired him from the Miami Marlins in a December 2014 trade.
"A huge blow," Eovaldi said outside the clubhouse. "When I got the MRI and got the results, I was really surprised."
One of the hardest-throwing starters in the majors, the inconsistent Eovaldi was 9-8 with a 4.76 ERA in 124 2/3 innings this year. It seems unlikely New York will keep him on the roster as he rehabs next year, knowing he could become a free agent following the season.
After receiving a second opinion on his ailing elbow, Eovaldi said he has a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. The torn UCL will necessitate a second Tommy John surgery for the 26-year-old, who had the procedure nine years ago when he was a high school junior.
Eovaldi was removed from his start Wednesday night in Boston after one inning with right elbow discomfort. His fastball averaged 93.91 mph, down from 97.16 mph in his previous outing, according to Brooks Baseball.
"I felt like I couldn't really let my fastball go and if I did, something bad would happen," he said. "My off-speed stuff felt fine."
Eovaldi said he actually experienced more pain late last season when he was shut down with elbow inflammation. But he had an MRI last Thursday and was evaluated by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad before seeking a second opinion from Dr. David Altchek, the New York Mets' medical director.
Meanwhile, the Yankees put Eovaldi on the disabled list and promoted right-hander Chad Green from Triple-A to start Monday night against Toronto.
Green struck out 11 over six innings in a 1-0 victory and will remain in the rotation. Joining him will be rookie right-hander Luis Cessa, scheduled to make his first major league start Saturday at the Los Angeles Angels after New York demoted Luis Severino to the minors this week.
Cessa is 2-0 with a 5.30 ERA in eight relief appearances. He went 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 15 games, including 14 starts, at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He and Green were both acquired from Detroit in December for lefty reliever Justin Wilson after the Mets sent Cessa to the Tigers with Michael Fulmer for Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline.
"We just want him to pitch like he's capable of pitching," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We don't want to put too much on his plate. We think he's earned a right to start in this spot."
Even as they've discarded several veteran stars and turned to a youth movement, the Yankees have picked up their play and remained in the playoff hunt. But the injury to Eovaldi will put pressure on unproven arms — perhaps next season, too.
Eovaldi said he is optimistic he'll be back in 2018 and is leaning toward selecting Ahmad to perform the operation. The flexor tendon procedure normally has a recovery time of about three to six months, but the Tommy John surgery could require at least 14-18 months of rehabilitation, according to Eovaldi.
"It's the second one, so it's a big deal," he said. "Hopefully everything goes well with the surgery and I'll work hard to get back."
Eovaldi was 14-3 with a 4.20 ERA in 27 starts last season, his first with the Yankees. He got demoted to the bullpen last month but was 2-2 in four starts after returning to the rotation. He threw a cutter in his last five starts (beginning July 19 vs. Baltimore) after not using the pitch since 2012.
Eovaldi is making $5.6 million this year and will be eligible for arbitration again in the offseason. But rather than carry an injured pitcher for about $7 million or so, the Yankees probably won't offer him a 2017 contract, which would make Eovaldi a free agent one year earlier than expected.
Combined with the exits of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Ivan Nova, that means New York projects to have about $65 million coming off its payroll after this season.