BIRMINGHAM — The Toronto Blue Jays have got their man, and, once again, nobody saw it coming. Renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews — Mr. Tommy John Surgery himself — signed a multi-year contract with the club late Sunday night, and will report to the Blue Jays minor league complex in Dunedin, Florida on Tuesday. As per club policy, financial details of the deal weren’t disclosed, but sources indicate it’s a five-year agreement in the neighborhood of $14 million, with full no-trade protection through 2014.
“We’re very excited to add Dr. Andrews to our core moving forward,” said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “More importantly, much like Jose Bautista, we believe in Dr. Andrews as a person more than anything else. We wouldn’t make this type of commitment to him if we didn’t believe in the type of person he is, and in what he brings to our organization. We’ve done our due diligence, and we felt it was the right time to take our relationship with Dr. Andrews to the next level.”
Dr. Andrews’ first order of business: A meeting with left-handed reliever Luis Perez, the latest Blue Jays pitcher to be lost to elbow issues. Perez, a stalwart of Toronto’s disappointing bullpen, has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow tightness.
“I’m excited to work with [Perez]. And I’m really happy to finally commit to Toronto. I’ve done a lot of work with the Blue Jays over the years — especially the last couple of years. They’ve had me on speed dial for a while,” Dr. Andrews said, chuckling.
It’s been a banner year for the 70-year-old Dr. Andrews. According to MLBDepthCharts.com, 24 big league pitchers have had Tommy John surgery in 2012, and each and every procedure has been 100 per cent successful.
“I take a lot of pride in my work, but sometimes, when you’re in the operating room, sweating, you think too much. So much of medicine is mental. I’ve finally figured out how to let the surgery come to me, instead of attacking the surgery all the time. See the ligament, cut the ligament. But, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my teammates at the Andrews Institute credit. My guys in the OR, they call great procedures. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them.”
Dr. Andrews is optimistic about his future, and that of the young Blue Jays. “The organization’s taken step after step in the right direction under Paul [Beeston] and Alex. The farm system’s been restocked, especially with young pitching talent, and you know what happens to up-and-coming arms; they explode. With so much young pitching talent coming down the pipe, Toronto made the most sense for me. I’m really looking forward to putting elbows, knees, and whatever Dustin McGowan needs fixed back together, and contributing to another World Series title north of the border.”
Through it all, the surgeries, the pressure, the shattered baseball dreams, and the long road back to the major leagues that is rehab, Dr. Andrews has managed to keep his sense of humor. “I told Kyle Drabek a few weeks ago, ‘Third time’s the charm.’”
Image credit: Mark Heithoff, Fast Company.
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