Ballplayers trying to avoid Tommy John surgery often are advised to try a platelet-enriched plasma injection, otherwise known as PRP.
Figuring he had nothing to lose after suffering a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, Keston Hiura had a PRP injection before his junior year at UC Irvine in 2017. To further protect his elbow, he abandoned the outfield that season and served solely as the Anteater’s DH.
That development didn’t prevent the 21-year-old Hiura from tearing apart college pitchers and prompting the Brewers to draft him ninth overall in 2017. Much to the delight of all involved, he had an MRI after signing for $4 million that showed his partially torn UCL had healed.
“I viewed it as a no-brainer for me,” Hiura said of the PRP injection. “It wasn’t going to make it worse, so that was the best decision for me at that point. I was just happy to play the whole year as the DH and help the team.
“There’s a lot of question about whether it works or not. For me, it did. It’s something I’d recommend for people in similar positions. It helped me avoid surgery.”
It also forced him to the sidelines for a year. Hirua appeared in just three games at second base at low Class A Wisconsin after undergoing a throwing program to strengthen his arm and elbow. He spent the rest of his 42-game pro debut at DH, batting .371/.422/.611 with four home runs in a season in which he spent 15 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Hiura moved on to instructional league and even more action in the field, and all systems are go for him to play second base from the outset of the 2018 season, wherever he is assigned.
“Everything is going well right now,” Hiura said in late January. “The offseason was big for me, being healthy. I’ve been strengthening my arm even more. I plan on being at second base when the season begins. I’m 100 percent healthy and ready to go.”