MINNEAPOLIS — Sitting in the Minnesota Twins locker room Sunday surrounded by many of the most promising minor leaguers, Christian Binford remembered back five years ago, when he was a 10th grader pitching for the Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania.
Up to the plate walked some stud on the other team who was good enough to attract 10-20 scouts.
“I’m going to try to one-up this guy,” Binford recalled thinking. “I had terrible mechanics. I was just trying to throw as hard as I could, and I didn’t know any better. I was having a great game up until that one pitch.”
That pitch altered his life.
“It popped. I could hear it,” he said. “I had no idea what the sound was at the time. I thought I just pulled a muscle. I took three days off and tried to throw, and I couldn’t make it to 90 feet. The ball just didn’t go anywhere. So I had an MRI, and it was completely torn.”
Just 16 at the time, Binford joined the list of Tommy John surgery alumni.
Elbow ligament-replacement surgery isn’t just for big leaguers these days. More than two dozen major leaguers have had the elbow ligament replacement operation in the last year, a group that includes Miami’s Jose Fernandez, the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey and Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore. New York Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and may need the procedure.
At least three players at the All-Star Futures game already had the surgery: Binford, a Double-A right-hander in the Kanas City Royals organization, was joined by Lucas Giolito, a Class A righty with the Washington Nationals who was the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and Steven Moya, a Double-A outfielder with the Detroit Tigers.