It was a bad week for talented college lefthanders. Texas senior lefty Sam Stafford is expected to have shoulder surgery that will sideline him for all of the spring, while Oregon junior lefty Christian Jones will miss the season with Tommy John surgery.
Stafford was a second-round pick by the Yankees last June after going 6-2, 1.77 as a junior. But concerns about the health of his shoulder caused Stafford to wind up back at Texas for his senior year. Three years earlier, Yankees doctors advised against the signing of second-rounder Scott Bittle out of Mississippi; he returned for his senior year, which was cut short by a shoulder injury.
Stafford's physical with the Yankees revealed a small tear in his shoulder, but Texas thought his shoulder had healed over the summer, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
"When he pitched against Texas State (in a fall scrimmage), it was almost unfair," Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson told the paper. "I remember looking at one of our coaches on the bench and saying, 'He looks like a major league pitcher out there right now.' The batters didn't have a chance."
But Stafford began feeling shoulder discomfort in the last month, and the coaches told the American-Statesman that he could have surgery next week. Clearly, Stafford's loss is a major blow for a Texas team that also lost starting center fielder Cohl Walla to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament last week, after a collision in practice. UT coach Augie Garrido told the paper that he expects lefthander Hoby Milner and righties Nathan Thornhill and John Curtiss to comprise the weekend rotation next weekend against Duke.
Jones, meanwhile, is the third Oregon pitcher to have Tommy John surgery this offseason, joining talented freshmen Cole Wiper and Sam Johnson.
"We're limping a little bit into the season," Ducks coach George Horton told the (Eugene, Ore.) Register-Guard. "To say we're at full strength is not accurate, but we're not going to use that as an excuse."
Jones was the crown jewel of Oregon's 24th-ranked 2009 recruiting class, and he began to tap into his significant potential as a sophomore last spring, going 702, 3.24 with 73 strikeouts and 34 walks in 78 innings. He was limited by tendinitis in his left elbow in the fall, and his rehabilitation efforts did not eliminate his discomfort, according to the paper. Jones told the Register-Guard that he was hoping to avoid surgery, but finally it became unavoidable.
Oregon senior righthander Alex Keudell, the presumed Friday starter, was also limited by an arm injury in the offseason, but he is expected to start Oregon's opener at Hawaii.
"I'm good now," Keudell told the Register-Guard. "I'm fine, a hundred percent, ready for the season."
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