A season that got off to such a promising start for Duncan Robinson has come to an end with the young right-handed pitcher successfully undergoing Tommy John surgery. Robinson reported on his Twitter account Wednesday night that Dr. Keith Meister performed the surgery and he is now looking forward to making the next steps toward his pursuit of a big league career.
I’m now on the other side of Tommy John surgery and I’m grateful for the support of friends and family. Thanks to Dr. Keith Meister and his staff for their incredible work. I’m excited to work hard, get back on the mound, compete, and take another step towards a big league dream!
— Duncan Robinson (@Duncan_Robiso) May 30, 2019
Robinson has been lights-out so far in his career in the Cubs system, producing a career 2.93 ERA in his four seasons. His talent and background have drawn comparisons to Kyle Hendricks, as the Dartmouth product works with a high-80’s sinker and relies on control and command to find success as a starter.
Robinson received a lot of love from the Cubs front office during this year’s Cubs Convention, with VP of development Jason McLeod even saying Robinson could make his way to Chicago at some point this year. The obvious role would have been as a fill-in starter for an injured rotation member with the possibility of making a few starts in September depending on how the postseason race looked.
The 25-year-old got the call as a non-roster invitee to big league spring training, even making a start for the Cubs. He began the season for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, where he made five starts and put up sub-par stats in the extremely small sample size of 22.2 innings.
Now Robinson will have to work hard in his rehab to make his way back to the mound next season. Pitchers typically require a full calendar year of rehabilitation following elbow reconstruction before they are able to return, so a comeback in mid-to-late 2020 with a full-go by spring of 2021 seems likely.
By then, Robinson will be 27 years old and past the traditional age of most prospects, even at the Triple-A level. It is common to think of most Tommy John pitchers as hard throwers, but Robinson’s reduced reliance on velocity doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any more likely to make a quicker or more successful recovery.
The big thing for him will be the ability to regain his comfort on the mound, which could be difficult for a guy whose game is structured around control and command. Being away for up to a full year, maybe more, isn’t easy for any pitcher, so we’ll have to wait and see how much leeway the Cubs afford Robinson once he returns.
Of course, an organization that has failed to produce any starting pitchers while being overly conservative on the development front can’t very well afford to give up on anyone just because of an injury. Here’s to a speedy recovery and a return to form for Robinson.