BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka left Friday night without speaking to reporters, leaving Red Sox manager Terry Francona to make the announcement that the Japanese pitcher will have Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, "probably next week," and that the procedure will be done by orthopedist Lewis Yocum in southern California.
Matsuzaka has yet to make a public statement about his decision to have the surgery. He decided to go the surgery route after returning home to Japan to see family and then meeting Tuesday with Yocum, who confirmed the Red Sox diagnosis that there is a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Yocum outlined the options available to Matsuzaka, including the rest and rehabilitation initially prescribed by the Red Sox, but said that if the elbow did not respond to the more conservative approach, it would only delay his return to pitching.
The club had never ruled out surgery as a likely course of treatment for Matsuzaka, saying only that more evaluation was required.
Francona said before Friday's game that he had spoken at some length with Matsuzaka on Thursday.
"He is very driven to come back and help us next year,'' Francona said. "He was really good yesterday. I was proud of him, the way he talked, the way he handled it.''
The estimated recovery time for the surgery, which involves the transfer of a tendon, usually from a patient's forearm, to rebuild the ligament is a minimum of a year. Assuming Matsuzaka is able to return in that time frame, he potentially could be back to pitch in the second half of the 2012 season, the sixth and final year of his contract with the Red Sox.
The ulnar collateral ligament is one of the tissues that connects the humerus bone in the upper arm to the two bones of the forearm. It acts as a stabilizer in the elbow, allowing it to withstand the stresses created by throwing a baseball. When the UCL weakens and stretches, that is technically called a sprain, and prevents a pitcher from throwing with full velocity and typical control. A more complete tear requires the building of a new ligament.