The Red Sox will be without Trevor Story to begin the 2023 season. That much we know. What we do not know is how much time he will wind up missing, or if he will be able to play at all.
Story underwent an internal bracing procedure to repair the right ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Monday. When speaking with reporters on Tuesday, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom did not provide a specific timetable for Story’s return, though he did express optimism that the infielder will be back in Boston’s lineup at some point this year.
“We’re not ready to put a timetable on it yet,” Bloom told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) over Zoom. “I certainly would not rule out a return sometime during 2023 but it’s also not something, at this stage, that we want to bank on. It will take how long it takes. We want to make sure he’s 100 percent. Certainly, with this being an internal brace procedure and not a Tommy John, it does leave the door open for a return this season.”
The procedure Story underwent is considered to be an alternative to Tommy John surgery since it typically takes less time to recover from. In a conversation with The Boston Globe, however, Dr. Jeffrey Dugas of the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center — who performed the first internal brace procedure back in 2023 — said Story’s recovery period could last anywhere between six to nine months.
“It’s a procedure we have a lot of confidence in, but it’s still, in the scheme of things, a relatively new procedure,” Bloom said. “We don’t have decades and decades of sample to see exactly to be able to pin it down to the day or the week like in some cases, you feel like you can with a full Tommy John. We’ll just see how it plays out. I think the worst thing we can do is rush him to adhere to some arbitrary timetable. Knowing Trevor, he’s going to push us and he wants to be out there. But we’ll have to let it play out.”
Story, 30, signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Red Sox last March. In the first year of that deal, the right-handed hitter batted .238/.303/.434 with 22 doubles, 16 home runs, 66 RBIs, 53 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 32 walks, and 122 strikeouts over 94 games (396 plate appearances). He was limited to just 94 games due to a right hand contusion that kept him sidelined from July 13 through August 27 and a left heel contusion that kept him sidelined from September 22 through the end of the 2022 campaign.
Prior to signing with the Red Sox, Story had dealt with right elbow inflammation while with the Rockies in 2021. Though he did not experience any elbow issues this past season, Story still saw the average velocity of his throws drop from 79.1 mph as a shortstop in 2021 to 76.1 mph as a second baseman in 2022. That 76.1 mph figure ranked ranked 61st among 70 qualified second basemen, per Baseball Savant.
Despite any concerns the Red Sox may have had with that dip in velocity, Bloom said surgery for Story was not under consideration until just recently.
“Obviously recognizing that his throwing has not been what it was in the past, everything when we did the physical when we signed him looked good and he felt good throughout the season,” Bloom said (via MLB.com’s Molly Burkhardt). “This, what he experienced in this incident, was something new.”
Story, per Bloom, first started to experience pain in his throwing elbow when he began ramping up his offseason throwing program shortly before Christmas. That prompted him to visit Dr. Keith Meister in the Dallas-area before flying to Boston to undergo further evaluation. After being evaluated by Red Sox team doctors, it became apparent that surgery was the best option for Story. The procedure was ultimately performed by Meister at Texas Metroplex Institute in Arlington.
As things stand now, Story remains at home in Texas. But he is expected to complete the early parts of his rehab in Fort Myers once spring training begins next month. Bloom also indicated that Story would continue to rehab with the Red Sox during the early part of the season, which begins on March 30.
“He has already said he wants to be around our people and around the team as much as he can,” said Bloom.
Story had been preparing to be the Red Sox’ starting shortstop come Opening Day. While that is no longer possible, there is a chance the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner could return sooner than expected and DH for Boston. That, of course, is dependent on how his recovery goes and the number of moves Bloom and Co. make between now and late March.
“We’re so early in this process that we haven’t made any kind of firm decision on that,” Bloom said. “So much of what Trevor brings to the table has to do with things he does outside of the batter’s box. That’s obviously a lot of the value that he brings. We don’t want to do anything to compromise him getting back at full strength to be able to bring all that value. I wouldn’t rule that out.”
Story, who does not turn 31 until November, is under club control through the end of the 2028 season. Regardless of when he is able to return to the field, the Red Sox are hopeful that Story will be able to put his elbow issues behind him and make his impact felt on both sides of the ball.
“Knowing that the arm strength had been trending not in a good direction prior to this, that wasn’t in-and-of itself reason for us to believe surgery would be needed until this latest incident,” said Bloom. “We’re certainly hopeful (he will be healthy) going forward. But even with what he was bringing to the table last season, I would say this guy was the best defensive second baseman in the game and one of the best defensive infielders.”
(Picture of Trevor Story: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)