Such was the lesson learned this week for right-handed pitcher and two-time All-Star Justin Duchscherer, who decided to undergo season-ending surgery on the left hip that limited him to five starts this year, the A's announced Saturday morning.
Nashville-based physician Dr. Thomas Byrd, who twice orchestrated surgery on Duchscherer's right hip, will perform the operation to correct a femoral acetabular impingement at a date to be determined. The injury-prone pitcher has a congenital issue in his hips where the femur meets the joint, a problem that was resolved in the right hip by the same surgery, which typically requires six months of recovery time.
"I knew [surgery] was inevitable," Duchscherer said. "I haven't had a chance to pitch without pain."
The 32-year-old was initially placed on the disabled list May 7, retroactive to April 30, due to left hip inflammation. Byrd administered a cortisone shot at the beginning of the month and warned Duchscherer it could potentially mask the pain instead of completely taking it away, as it unfortunately did.
As a result, he was activated May 15 but reinjured the hip during pregame preparations for his scheduled start in Anaheim that day. Subsequently, the A's put him back on the DL on May 16, marking his seventh career DL stint.
After receiving an unsuccessful injection of joint-cushioning Synvisc, the veteran pitcher was sent to undergo rehab work in an effort to avoid surgery at the A's Minor League facility in Phoenix, where he was taking part in a facilitated rehab program designed by pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Ron Romanic. The righty even underwent a 20-pitch simulated game on Friday before succumbing to a visit with a local physical therapist, assistant general manager David Forst said.
"He got through it," Forst told MLB.com by phone, "but didn't feel well doing it. He finally saw another doctor down there, and it was just confirmed that it probably wasn't going to hold up. So that's when he decided to go ahead and shut it down."
"After my bullpen, I felt stiff and sore," said Duchscherer, who realized he was out of options not named surgery. "I'd rather have it fixed than risk any damage. I felt myself changing mechanics, and I didn't want to hurt myself with new mechanics."
Duchscherer was 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA in five starts -- three of which didn't include any earned runs -- for the A's before joining the DL this year. He was sidelined during all of the 2009 season due to elbow surgery and a subsequent bout with clinical depression, and he has missed parts of each of the last four seasons.
Because of Duchscherer's injury-prone past, the A's simply offered the pitcher a one-year contract this offseason that was highly incentive-laden. Forst didn't comment on the club's future plans with Duchscherer but, from his understanding from the pitcher's agent, "he definitely wants to play next year. That's why he wants to do the surgery now."
"We went into the contract knowing his past and knowing there were issues that could prevent him from pitching," he continued. "Pitching depth is something we focused on, and we're very happy with how guys have performed."
Duchscherer confirmed those beliefs Saturday evening via phone from Arizona, where he spoke emphatically about putting on a uniform again. Which uniform, though, remains unclear.
"It's up to the teams that are interested," he said. "I like the A's coaching staff and the players, so if the opportunity came up, I'd be interested in coming back."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less