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MARK LOWE'S ELBOW PROBLEMS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

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Sorry. Anyway, Larry LaRue:

Surgery performed last month on rookie Mark Lowe, the Seattle Mariners' minor league pitcher of the year and a midsummer big-league sensation, will keep the right-hander from pitching when the 2007 season begins.

The best-case scenario for the 23-year-old reliever would have him pitching again in late April or early May. The worst case is that Lowe's right-elbow injury could be career-threatening.

"Are we concerned? You bet," general manager Bill Bavasi said. "It's not good. It's a real touchy elbow situation."
...
By late September, further tests revealed a more complicated injury, and when Dr. Lew Yocum performed surgery Oct. 6, he found more damage than anticipated in Lowe's elbow.

"In essence, what they found was a bone-on-bone situation in my elbow," Lowe said from his Arizona home. "They did a procedure that helps with the regeneration of cartilage. Now the only thing I can do is rest and let the healing process occur."

We've talked about this before - Lowe's injury was never as minor as the organization played it off as being, and so we knew from the get-go that things were a little worse than they sounded. What we didn't know was that the situation would get this bad this quick.

Lowe didn't just have a small divot in his elbow cartilage; he apparently had a full-width tear that had his bones rubbing right up against each other. As you can imagine, that's awful for someone who makes his money by throwing things. They tried the ol' cartilage recovery method anyway, but again, the regenerated fibrocartilage is structurally and biomechanically inferior to the tissue it's replacing, and when you're trying to grow as much of it as the article implies, you're just asking for major complications.

Mark Lowe's career as a pitcher isn't over yet, but it's a hell of a lot closer now than it was two months ago. Even if the procedure works and the new fibrocartilage fills in the hole, that's still way too much weak tissue to depend on for the long-term. It's a patch, not a solution, and if/when Lowe ever comes back, he's virtually assured of more problems down the road. Whether or not he's still a Mariner at that point, I can't say, but I'm afraid we probably already know the end to this story, even if the middle bits are still sorting themselves out.

So, yeah. The 2007 Mariner bullpen isn't going to be as strong as we thought. This probably goes a long ways towards explaining why Raffy Soriano won't get another shot in the rotation; the bullpen needs him, because the team knew that Lowe was in trouble and it doesn't want to rely on Jon Huber as the go-to #1 righty reliever. This also means that, barring the acquisition of some randomly-generated veteran setup man, Soriano isn't getting dealt, which takes away our most valuable bargaining chip. But we can talk about that another time. For now, best wishes to Mark Lowe in his recovery. It's just way too soon for his time to be up.