TORONTO – Twins righthander Mike Pelfrey had surgery Tuesday to alleviate pressure on the ulnar nerve in his elbow and will miss several weeks, possibly the season.
The Twins said recovery time is anywhere from two to four months, depending on the individual.
The good news is his ulnar collateral ligament, which was replaced in 2012, is fine. The problem is that scar tissue from that procedure was pressing up against the nerve, so ulnar nerve decompression surgery was required to remove the scar tissue.
Pelfrey felt tingling in his fingers in spring training but didn’t think it was a big deal and did not notify the training staff at the time. But the velocity on his fastball, as high as 95 miles per hour last season, was down to the low 90s once the season started. After going 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA in five starts, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a groin strain and sent to Class AAA Rochester for a rehabilitation assignment.
He was 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA at Rochester, but said his velocity dropped to 86-90. That’s when Pelfrey decided to have his elbow checked, so he went to Pensacola, Fla., on Monday to be examined by noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who in 2012 performed Tommy John surgery on him. That’s when the decision was made to have the lates surgery.
Hicks still hurting
Center fielder Aaron Hicks tried throwing during early batting practice Tuesday, but he still is limited because of a sore right shoulder.
“We’re going to have to figure this out in the next day or so,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s really not getting much better. So we’ve got to make a decision in the next day or two.”
Gardenhire said he’ll give Hicks one more day to improve. If he doesn’t, Hicks could be placed on the disabled list and sent to the Twin Cities for an exam.
Hicks injured the shoulder while diving for a ball during the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss to Houston. He can pinch run and pinch hit, but can’t throw.
That leaves shortstop Danny Santana as the center fielder. Gardenhire mentioned Chris Parmelee as an emergency center fielder if needed. Parmelee played center in high school, when the Twins first scouted him.
Sam Fuld was in his third game Tuesday for Class AA New Britain, where he’s on a rehabilitation assignment following recovery from a concussion. He was expected to replace Hicks, hitting .198, on the roster sometime during this road trip anyway.
The Twins also were looking around the league for center field help, but that search might have been postponed after Santana has played adequate defense and hit .370 in 81 at-bats.
Bench coach Terry Steinbach remembers going out to bars with Bob Welch and playing games such as Pop-A-Shot with him. Welch would take his turn. Steinbach followed, and Welch would jump up and block his first shot. Steinbach laughed as he told the story.
“Very energetic. Very exciting,” Steinbach said. “One of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever been around. Everything he did was 110 miles an hour.”
Welch, who played with Steinbach with Oakland from 1988-94 and went 27-6 in winning the AL Cy Young Award in 1990, died Tuesday in Seal Beach, Calif., at age 57.
“He was a great guy and one of those guys who pitched to the end,” Steinbach said. “They literally had to rip the jersey off his back.”
• Second baseman Pat Kelly, a product of Red Wing High School who played three seasons in college at Nebraska, has decided to skip his senior year and sign with the Twins. Kelly was drafted in the 12th round by the Twins last week. He was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and a career .319 hitter.
The Associated Press contributed to this notebook.