Pirates Director of Sports Medicine Todd Tomczyk met with the local media prior to Friday’s game against the New York Mets. He announced that pitcher Vince Velasquez had elbow surgery that will have him sidelined for up to a year.
Vince Velasquez has undergone season-ending UCL surgery, according to director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk. It’s not a full Tommy John, so he should be out 11-12 months. More in the @DKPghSports live feed
— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) June 9, 2023
While his surgery wasn’t described as a full Tommy John surgery, the missed time is only slightly shorter. Velasquez signed a one-year deal with the Pirates as a free agent this season. If he ends up re-signing, he won’t be back until approximately early June, assuming all goes well with his rehab work.
Velasquez finishes the 2023 season with a 4-4, 3.86 record in eight starts, with a 1.31 WHIP, a 3.90 FIP and 37 strikeouts in 37.1 innings.
The Pirates were already without starters JT Brubaker and Mike Burrows due to Tommy John surgery, so this is their third starting pitcher expected to see significant big league who has been lost long-term to an elbow injury.
De Jong Gone, Smith-Njigba Returns
The Pittsburgh Pirates made a roster move prior to the start of their series against the New York Mets. Right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong was designated for assignment. The Pirates recalled outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba to take him place on the active roster.
De Jong was designated for assignment exactly a month ago. He had the right to refuse an assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis, but he decided to stay in the Pirates system. They added him back to the 40-man/active roster five days ago.
De Jong pitched once since returning, allowing six run over two innings. He has allowed a total of 17 runs over 11.1 innings this year for the Pirates.
Smith-Njigba made the Opening Day roster this year. He hit .125/.216/.219 before being sent down to Indianapolis on April 26th.
He hit .245/.339/.547 over 28 games with Indianapolis since being sent down.
Minor Moves for Altoona and Indianapolis
The Pirates also made some minor league moves on Friday. Pitcher Sean Sullivan has been placed on the 7-day Injured List for Altoona.
Sullivan has pitched well this season, posting a 2.89 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 43.2 innings over nine starts.
Pitcher Justin Meis has rejoined Altoona to take his place. He was placed on the Development List two weeks ago, after starting the year with a 7.31 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP in 32 innings.
Josh Bissonette has rejoined Indianapolis from the Development List, taking the place on Smith-Njigba. Bissonette hit .240/.345/.293 in 22 games for Indianapolis this year.
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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.