Plum native McGough optimistic after Tommy John surgery

| Saturday, June 14, 2014, 11:39 p.m.

Tommy John.

Say the name to a baseball player, and he will gasp like he was just tossed into a cold lake.

Pitchers run the other way when they hear the label given to the common surgery otherwise known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, because it has shortened, sometimes ended, playing careers.

But it also has saved and prolonged many others, and Plum native Scott McGough hopes it does the same for him.

McGough, a right-handed reliever with the Jacksonville Suns, the Miami Marlins' Double-A affiliate, had the procedure just more than two weeks ago. What first was thought to be a strained right forearm turned out to be a much greater injury and needed repair.

An arthrogram revealed a full tear. McGough started the season on the disabled list, and that's where he'll remain.

The initial jolt of pain hit McGough during a spring training game last year.

“I got (the surgery) done by Dr. James Andrews, who literally is the best in the world,” McGough said.

“I am pumped to get started with the rehab. I already had full extension back in 17 days, which is way ahead of where it should be, so I'm excited about that.”

Pitchers who throw with velocity in the mid-90s like McGough put repeated stress on their UCLs, which can stretch or tear like rubber bands.

He said he pitched briefly through the pain but threw “meatballs.” He said as time went on, it was a challenge to turn a door knob.

McGough, 24, is optimistic that with rehabilitation he'll be able to throw again in 11 months.

A Southern League All-Star last season, McGough pitched two games in Triple-A with the New Orleans Zephyrs.

“Nobody wants to sit for a year, but getting it done by the best and having the rehab to follow makes it great,” McGough said. “So many guys have it now that it's nice knowing it's not a career-ender.”

Always upbeat, McGough's that kid who promises there will be baseball in the longest of rain delays. He brushes off negative vibes and rarely allows something to bully his spirit.

“I got a second chance, and following this protocol is only going to help,” he said. “I'm excited because I really feel like I'll come back stronger.”

McGough went back to Oregon to earn his college degree in the offseason. Last year, he went 4-3 with a 2.63 ERA and a save in 36 games.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at

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