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Brewers’ Robert Gasser Weighing Elbow Surgery

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4:25pm: Manager Pat Murphy said he’s assuming that Gasser is done for the year, although that’s not yet confirmed, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com on X. “I hope I’m wrong,” Murphy said. “I really do.”

10:54am: Brewers lefty Robert Gasser has already received a pair of opinions — one from the team’s medical staff, another from renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache — on his ailing left elbow and is headed to meet with Dr. Keith Meister to receive a third opinion, per Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Gasser told the Brewers beat this weekend that his ulnar collateral ligament is “not as strong as it should be” but is also not “broken.” ElAttrache recommended surgery, Gasser explained, but more for durability concerns than to repair immediate damage. ElAttrache also told Gasser that non-surgical rehab could be a viable option because the ligament is not currently ruptured.

Understandably, it seems Gasser would prefer to avoid going under the knife if at all possible. Surgery is a last resort in these cases, and as Gasser himself said of the two opinions he’s received thus far: “They both said I can rehab. I’m just trying to figure out what the best move is.”

Any form of UCL surgery — be it Tommy John surgery, an internal brace procedure or a hybrid of the two — would wipe out the remainder of Gasser’s season. A full Tommy John or a Tommy John/internal brace hybrid would keep Gasser out of action late into the 2025 season at least. A strict internal brace without a full UCL reconstruction could have him back on the mound earlier than that.

Given that we’re now into mid-June, there’s perhaps some extra merit the non-surgical route — depending on the type of surgery being considered. Recovery from either Tommy John surgery or that hybrid procedure would come with a 12- to 16-month rehab window in all likelihood, with most cases erring toward the later end of that spectrum. Speculatively speaking, if the most realistic rehab scenario has Gasser returning in mid-to-late August next season anyhow, he could view the rest-and-rehab route as effectively risking the final six weeks of next year for a chance at pitching a whole season in 2025.

Whichever path Gasser takes, he’s in for an extended absence from the Milwaukee rotation. That’s a crucial hit, given both the left-hander’s strong results so far in his debut campaign and the wave of other injuries Milwaukee has incurred. In his first five starts, the 25-year-old Gasser pitched to a 2.57 ERA in 28 innings of work.

Gasser, acquired from the Padres in the 2022 Josh Hader trade, entered the season ranked among the Brewers organization’s best pitching prospects. His 14% strikeout rate in the majors is problematically low, but he’s offset that to this point with Maddux-esque precision, issuing a walk to just one the 114 batters he’s faced. Both of those rate stats are likely to change over a larger sample; the southpaw fanned 28% of his Triple-A opponents and walked 8.4% of them in 135 innings in 2023.

From a team perspective, the Brewers will be without Brandon Woodruff for the entire season while he recovers from last October’s shoulder surgery. Left-hander Wade Miley is done for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery last month. Each of Jakob Junis, Joe Ross and DL Hall is also on the injured list at the moment. That’s left the Brewers with Freddy Peralta, Colin Rea, Bryse Wilson and Tobias Myers in the rotation. Milwaukee could turn to pitching prospect Carlos Rodriguez to take the ball tomorrow.

Regardless of what happens with Gasser, starting pitching will likely be a focus for Milwaukee as next month’s trade deadline approaches. Their depth has already been stretched exceptionally thin, and any further injuries would prove difficult to overcome. Despite all their injuries, the Brewers are the only NL Central club with a winning record and currently hold a 6.5-game lead over the Reds and Cubs (both tied at 32-34 on the season). Even if the division looks quite winnable right now, they’ll still need reinforcements for a potential postseason rotation.

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