Wild Zack Britton injury update explains potential expedited return to Yankees

New York Yankees fans were genuinely shocked to learn a few weeks ago that reliever Zack Britton was already throwing as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery.

But did he actually undergo that exact procedure reported back in September? That’s what we were told! Britton was initially believed to miss all of 2022, but now there’s a chance he could be back in the bullpen in the second half of the season.

The timetable is a bit murky, but the left-hander is already throwing bullpen sessions after just nine months, which is considerable when you take into account some pitchers miss close to two full years after getting such an invasive surgery.

But Britton’s was different. He apparently didn’t undergo the traditional Tommy John procedure. His was done with an experimental tape that holds the UCL together, which is believed to potentially shave six months off the recovery process.

Here’s the latest from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, who also appeared on Talkin’ Yanks this week to further discuss:

“Manager Aaron Boone said on June 7 that Britton threw a bullpen session ‘the other day,’ but the left-hander is still ‘a ways out.’ Britton will throw another bullpen in a few days. He needs several sessions, according to Boone, and there is optimism he could return this season. Britton underwent left elbow surgery on Sept. 8, a procedure that used suture tape — an alternative to Tommy John surgery — and was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. He began a flat-ground throwing program in February.”

Zack Britton’s version of Tommy John surgery could have him back with the Yankees soon

It gets more interesting. When you consider Britton’s career — he’s going on 35 and is in the final year of his contract — it makes sense why he’d try something that could get him back on the field, which is exactly what Hoch alluded to.

The Yankees’ insider mentioned Britton’s desire to win a World Series and the fact that his playing days are reaching a conclusion. The potential convenience of an early return as the team makes a final push for a title with this current group likely pushed Britton to get this one-of-a-kind procedure to improve his chances of playing in 2022. 

Now, fans will be wondering how quickly he’ll be able to get back on track. Britton hasn’t been himself since the 2020 season, and even a couple years before that he struggled a bit with walks and allowing hard contact. It all came to a head in 2021 when he got absolutely shelled as he endured issues with his elbow.

Perhaps the surgery gives him new life, but the Yankees should only view his possible return as a bonus and not as an integral bullpen piece because the fact remains nobody knows what to expect given the uncertainty surrounding his alternative Tommy John.