To hear that McClellan had surgery to address a shoulder issue was somewhat surprising, given that he was in the middle of a rehab program for his right elbow. He was diagnosed with a strained elbow following an abbreviated May 17 appearance in San Francisco and had just resumed throwing on July 3. The Cardinals anticipated him rejoining the club in early August.
As it turns out, McClellan's elbow problem appears to be tied to these shoulder injuries, which have been bothering the right-hander for more than a year. McClellan said on Thursday that he first felt something wrong with his shoulder when he warmed up before a June 15 game in Washington last year.
The discomfort "progressively got worse and worse over the season," McClellan explained, and the discomfort peaked in September. An MRI on McClellan's shoulder this offseason showed a small tear of the labrum, though that did not present any sizable red flags. Pitchers regularly pitch through minor labrum tears.
McClellan thought he could, too, though his inability to extend his shoulder properly left him unable to position his elbow as needed during his delivery. That, McClellan believes, led to the early-season elbow pain.
"I put my elbow at risk," McClellan said. "I couldn't get my elbow above my shoulder. Anybody who knows mechanics knows that is a must."
When McClellan was shut down in May because of elbow pain, he hoped that the six weeks of rest would also take care of the shoulder discomfort. But in his third session of long toss last week, McClellan still didn't feel right.
"It was the same thing," McClellan said. "If it's still going to be there and if it's going to lead to other possible issues, I had to have it looked at again."
He had another MRI on Monday, which again showed fraying of the labrum. At that time, he decided to have team physician Dr. George Paletta perform the procedure. It was during the surgery that Dr. Paletta discovered McClellan had a cracked shoulder capsule, something that does not show up on an MRI.
Had McClellan known all along that he was pitching with a split capsule, he said he likely would have elected surgery earlier.
"That's what the majority of the pain was coming from," McClellan said. "We had to [repair] it. It wasn't going to get any better. It was the right decision."
McClellan, whose right arm was in a sling on Thursday, will begin his new rehab program on Monday. Because the recovery time is fairly short, McClellan expects to have no limits with his offseason throwing program. That will allow the 28-year-old to be fully recovered in time for Spring Training 2013.
McClellan, who avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.5 million contract this winter, finishes the season having allowed 16 hits and 11 earned runs in 18 2/3 innings. He will be arbitration-eligible again next offseason.