Nothing good ever happens when a team sends one of its pitchers or his medical records to Birmingham, Ala.
So when the story broke that the Nationals were sending promising right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to Dr. James Andrews, Nats fans were prepared for the worst.
And the worst is what they got: Zimmermann is headed for Tommy John surgery.
He has a torn ligament in his elbow. TJ surgery replaces that ligament, typically with a stronger one from somewhere else in his body. It usually takes 12-18 months for rehab, which basically puts Zimmermann out 'til 2011.
Interim GM Mike Rizzo looks at the bright side, telling the Post, "the small bit of sunshine is that there is an 85 to 90 percent success rate with pitchers recovering to their pre-injury status after Tommy John surgery. It's a much higher success rate than shoulder [labrum] surgery."
Don't you feel better now?
Sunshine Mike took it a step further, saying the Nats don't really need Zimmermann, according to the Times: "That's the reason why you say you never have enough pitching prospects. I think we're fortunate here that we've got seven or eight really good young starting pitching prospects."
While it's probably not fair to call that a lie, since Rizzo probably believes it, it is fair to say that that's wrong.
For all the talk of the Nats' starting pitching depth, the team has two starters who have any chance of having anything more than a career as a number 4 or 5 starting pitcher. One's John Lannan. The other was (maybe still can be) Jordan Zimmermann. That's it.
Look at the other young starters who've paraded through this season. Not one of them has the stuff or the command -- or even flashes -- to be a solid major leaguer. They're all back-end guys.
Olsen? Nope. Detwiler? Perhaps. Balester? Pass. Martis? No chance. Stammen? Blech. Martin? Ha!
They have young pitchers, sure, but so do 29 other Major League teams. And there's no indication that their young pitchers are any better than any other team's.
Except for Lannan. And Zimmermann.
And that's why yesterday's news hurts so much.
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. Today, he is in mourning.