Could new Dodgers reliever Tommy Kahnle pitch in 2021 despite his elbow injury?
When the Los Angeles Dodgers swiped free-agent reliever Tommy Kahnle from the New York Yankees this offseason, they were under the assumption that the right-hander wouldn’t be stepping on the field until 2022. Kahnle underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the 2020 season began after he suffered a torn UCL in his only appearance.
The surgical procedure features a lengthy recovery process for pitchers, given the amount of force they exert on their elbows on a daily basis. More times than not, it’s 12 full months, if not longer. And sometimes that doesn’t include working one’s arm back to full strength or returning to game speed.
But in the case of relievers, the timetable could be a bit sooner (9-12 months is a healthy prediction). Kahnle is hoping that it’s closer to nine months based on his latest comments.
If this is the case, and Kahnle returns before the second half of the season, the Dodgers will have fully robbed the Yankees. Since Kahnle underwent TJ surgery on Aug. 5, his 2021 was surely in jeopardy given a worst-case scenario slates him for a late debut.
Sometimes, at that point, teams will only pitch such players in low-leverage situations so they receive some game experience before making a full-fledged comeback. Why have a guy on a recently-repaired elbow pitch meaningful innings down the stretch and in the playoffs?
But if Kahnle can get back on the mound, let’s say, by June, that changes everything. He can get low-leverage outings for about a month and then be thrust into the thick of the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen.
The outlook for 2022 was already promising with this signing. Now, the Dodgers could actually see Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, Brandon Morrow and Kahnle all pitch at the same time in the coming months. If all of those guys can return to form, watch out.
LA won’t even have to worry about Kenley Jansen coming in during tight spots.