Tom Robson Has Torn UCL

In this week’s ThrowinSmoke column, Melissa Couto writes about Blue Jays prospect Tom Robson, who is headed for Tommy John surgery, Rockies 1B Justin Morneau, who is headed to the home run derby, and LHP Scott Diamond, who has been released by the Minnesota Twins. (Photo: Eddie Michels)

In this week’s ThrowinSmoke column, Melissa Couto writes about Blue Jays prospect Tom Robson, who is headed for Tommy John surgery, Rockies 1B Justin Morneau, who is headed to the home run derby, and LHP Scott Diamond, who has been released by the Minnesota Twins. (Photo: Eddie Michels)

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Tom Robson never felt the popping sensation associated with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Instead, the right-hander — who will have Tommy John surgery in Pensacola, Fla., on Tuesday — experienced a nagging discomfort that simply wouldn't go away.

"I woke up with it one day and it never got better," said Robson, whose surgery will be performed by the renowned Dr. James Andrews. "It had been something that was bothering me for a while, so I knew it wasn't right."

Robson, of Ladner, B.C., played through the pain at the beginning of the season with the single-A Lansing Lugnuts before finally letting on that something was amiss.

The team, once aware of Robson's discomfort, immediately sent him to Florida, where an MRI confirmed what the pitcher feared he already knew.

Robson received a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection in hopes his arm would heal on its own, and started a throwing program after six weeks of rehab. But when all of that was over, he still felt discomfort throwing from 60 feet.

[Robson-Lansing] "By that time, I knew what was going to happen," Robson said.

Before getting his MRI in May, the Blue Jays' 2011 fourth round draft pick was 2-4 with a 6.25 ERA, a 1.737 WHIP and a career-high walks per nine innings of 5.1 (up from 2.2 in 2013) through 31 2/3 innings (eight games).

It was a drastic jump from his 6-0, 1.12 ERA performance through 13 games last year between the rookie league Bluefield Blue Jays and the short-season A Vancouver Canadians, whom he helped propel to a third consecutive Northwest League title by pitching into the seventh inning of the championship game, giving up three hits and zero runs.

But despite the solid year in 2013, Robson says he was determined to do better.

"I think that's the most upsetting part (about the torn UCL)," he said. "Coming into spring training, I was in the best shape of my life. So to have an injury like this end your season is definitely frustrating."

Though Robson admits he may have been foolish to continue to pitch while injured, he doesn't necessarily regret the decision.

"Like every athlete, you try and play through times like these hoping it will get better, which for me it never did," said the 21-year-old. "It got to a point where I wasn't able to be myself anymore, and in between starts I dreaded picking up a baseball, constantly wondering about my arm. ...

"A lot of people criticized me when they found out I was throwing through an injury, but to be honest, I'd probably do it again. I wanted to give myself a chance. All the hard work and preparation I put in for this season, I didn't want to see it just go to waste."

Robson, who says he felt a similar pain back in 2012 when he sprained the same elbow, has accepted his fate and is now looking forward to the surgery.

"I won't have to worry about my elbow anymore knowing I've done what I had to do to fix it," he said. "It'll be a long year, but in the end it'll be worth it.

"This is just a bump in the road."

BLUE JAYS NOTES

SS Jose Reyes is hitting .462 (12-for-26) with a .517 OBP over the last six games entering action Sunday. ... Blue Jays first round draft pick Max Pentecost will be joining short-season Vancouver Tuesday. Pentecost, a catcher drafted 11th overall out of Kennesaw State University last month, signed for $2.9 million on July 9. ... Former Blue Jays OF Rajai Davis is hitting .471 in his last six games.

CANADIANS IN THE MAJORS

Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau is heading back to Minneapolis — for a couple of days, anyway.

Though the New Westminster, B.C., native lost out to Chicago's Anthony Rizzo in MLB's Final Vote for the last National League roster spot on Thursday, he was named to the NL Home Run Derby team by captain and Rockies teammate Troy Tulowitzki.

[Philadelphia Phillies v Colorado Rockies] "I just want to say thank you to all of the Rockies, Twins and Morneau fans who spent so much time voting," Morneau said in a statement. "It was a very humbling experience. Thank you. See you at the derby."

The Home Run Derby will take place Monday at Minnesota's Target Field, a day before the 85th All-Star Game. Morneau, the derby champ from 2008 at Yankee Stadium, remains the only Canadian to win the competition (Larry Walker and Jason Bay have also competed).

The 33-year-old Morneau will bring some fundamental experience to the NL derby team. After all, he did spend three seasons hitting at Target Field, and eight at the Metrodome before it (with 97 career home runs), while playing for the Twins.

"I think it's a great story, him going back to Minnesota," Tulowitzki said in a video statement announcing Morneau to his team. "I'm sure the fans are going to have a lot of fun with it, and so will he."

NOTES: Morneau is hitting .309 with 13 home runs for the Rockies so far. He signed a two-year, $12.5 million free-agent deal with Colorado in the off-season. ... Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson was given the last spot on the AL derby team by captain Jose Bautista. ... Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale won the vote for the last spot on the AL all-star team. ... LHP Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) was traded from the A's to the Yankees on Friday. Francis, working out of the bullpen, had a 6.08 ERA through 13 1/3 innings for Oakland.

CANADIANS IN THE MINORS

While the Minnesota Twins welcome one Canadian back to their field this week, another is being released.

The Twins cut ties with left-handed pitcher Scott Diamond of Guelph, Ont., on Saturday after the southpaw went 4-7 with a 6.52 ERA and 1.638 WHIP through 80 innings (17 games, 15 starts) with the triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

Diamond was 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA for Minnesota in 2012, his best of three major league seasons.

NOTES: Blue Jays prospect Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) will lead off for the World team at the MLB Futures Game on Sunday. Pompey has eight hits through just 15 games with double-A New Hampshire but hit .319 in 70 games with high-A Dunedin to start the season. ... St. Louis Cardinals prospect Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) is on a six-game hitting streak with the short-season A State College Spikes. Wick is hitting .385 with 12 home runs and 31 RBIs through 27 games.

CANADIANS IN COLLEGE

It's rare enough for a player to hit for the cycle in any given game.

But successfully doing it in back-to-back contests is virtually unheard of — unless you're Anthony Rattigan.

The Okanagan College outfielder hit a single, double, triple, and home run in consecutive games last Friday and Sunday for his summer team, the Junior Etobicoke Rangers of the Toronto Baseball Association.

With his double-cycle performance, Rattigan helped Etobicoke to 28-2 and 28-1 wins against North York and Oshawa, respectively.

The 20-year-old from Toronto is hitting .395 with two homers, 26 RBIs, 19 walks, 12 stolen bases in 12 attempts, and a 1.081 OPS through 27 games this summer.

The Rangers are 14-4-1 so far this season, and 8-2-1 in junior tournament play.

-- Follow Melissa on Twitter @throwinsmoke

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Melissa Couto

My name is Melissa Couto. I'm a sports reporter-editor at The Canadian Press, where I've worked for the past two years. Mostly I work on the night desk, editing copy for print, online and broadcast, but I have been doing more and more writing recently. I also contribute to the Canadian Baseball Network, a website founded by renowned Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott.

 

I'm a graduate of Centennial College's sports journalism post-graduate program. Before that, I went to Western where I completed a BA and MA in American history (it's helped me impress people when we're watching Jeopardy). In all seriousness, my time at Western was valuable.  I walked away with a real passion for writing. When I took the post-grad program at Centennial, I learned to merge that love of writing with the love of sport that I've always had (particularly for baseball), and as they say, the rest is history.