After a subscapular strain sent him to the 60-day IL in April, Brandon Woodruff returned to the major league roster in August, dominating and posting a 2.28 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over the 67 innings he could pitch. It seemed like he hadn’t lost a step, and he gave fans a glimpse of what could’ve been had he been healthy all year. In a Herculean effort, he pitched a complete game shutout against the Miami Marlins in September.
Unfortunately, his comeback story took a dark turn on October 2nd when the subscapular injury that sidelined him earlier in the year returned and caused him to miss the entire Wild Card Series. If Woodruff had been present for the postseason, perhaps the Brewers could’ve avoided an early first-round exit at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The procedure aimed to repair the anterior capsule in his right shoulder, a potential long-term fix to what seems to be a chronic issue now. Woodruff is expected to return to action in the second half of the 2024 season if he can return during that year.
His future is now in question, as the injury could not have come at a more tragic time. Brandon Woodruff will be eligible for arbitration in 2024 and was labeled a potential trade piece heading into this offseason. Still, questions have shifted from whether he’ll be playing baseball in Milwaukee to whether he’ll be playing baseball at all. Furthermore, he will be a free agent in 2025, but given the long layoff he’ll have before negotiations start, he’ll likely have a hard time signing the deal he was hoping for. Will he be seen as an injury risk? Is he still capable of giving a team the 150+ innings they’d want out of a frontline starter every year?
The blue-sky scenario would be that he makes a miraculous recovery, returns shortly after the All-Star Break, and picks up where he left off, striking out opposing batters with extreme prejudice and going deep into games. The gray-sky scenario is that he becomes a shadow of his former self, unable to generate the same velocity or exercise the same command as before, similar to pitchers like Noah Syndergaard. With more and more pitchers going under the knife and mixed results thus far, it’s hard to say.
Regardless of the true outcome, the Brewers front office undoubtedly has a difficult decision to make, and Woodruff’s fate, at least for the next few years, is in their hands.
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