Ethan Roberts Will Need Tommy John Surgery

Crushing. Just crushing news. Not only because of the need for surgery and the timeline for recovery and the impact to the player and the organization, but also because Ethan Roberts was such an impressive story. Remember how meaningful it was when he made the Opening Day roster? I’m as emotional now as I was then, but for wholly different reasons.

That is to say, what we feared is what happened: the injury that took Roberts out of his last rehab appearance at Iowa was indeed an elbow injury that requires surgery.

Roberts, 24, will miss the rest of the season and a good portion of next season, too. Hopefully the surgery goes smoothly, and the rehab goes well. Relievers can sometimes return as soon as 12 months, but I wouldn’t get your expectations up for any time before the second half of 2023.

Because Roberts is already on the 40-man roster, the Cubs will have to decide how to handle the logistics of his spot this offseason (players on the 60-day IL have to come off the 60-day IL for the offseason, and thus take up a 40-man spot). I don’t expect Roberts to be gone from the organization necessarily, but it’s possible he’ll be removed from the 40-man during the offseason if the Cubs need that spot while sorting out the various prospects they need to protect from the Rule 5 Draft, as well as free agent additions. Then when he is fully recovered, the Cubs would add him back to the 40-man. The risk there is that you lose Roberts on waivers this offseason if you try to outright him. It could depend on how the rehab is going come November. It’s just really awkward and unfortunate timing for the injury and the recovery timeline when there is going to be a 40-man crunch.

*previous post follows*

One of the biggest breakout relief prospects on the farm last year, Ethan Roberts was added to the 40-man roster last November. Then, he looked so capable in Spring Training that the Chicago Cubs had him on the Opening Day roster. It wasn’t just a great story, it was a guy with late-inning upside. Nasty slider, and tremendous natural cutting four-seamer.

At the big league level, Roberts flashed great moments with that stuff, but also some periods of time where he couldn’t locate or miss bats. Related or not, Roberts then saw his velocity drop as he dealt with shoulder inflammation, which ultimately put him on the Injured List in late April.

After a long and careful rehab process, Roberts was just now – today – sent to Iowa to appear in a game and get back to competing. Unfortunately, it did not last long, and it looked really bad:

I won’t speculate, since we know absolutely nothing about what happened other than what we could see on the I-Cubs broadcast. Roberts threw what looked to be a fastball that touched only 90 mph, immediately doubled over in apparent pain, said he was done, and then was shaking his arm as the trainer came out. He looked to be extremely frustrated and/or in tremendous pain. It was just bad.

All you can do is hope it is not as serious as it seemed. We’ll update when there’s more information. Roberts, 24, is already on the 60-day IL.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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