The Royals announced on Saturday that the right-handed starting pitcher Nate Karns will have a rib surgically removed in order to relieve his thoracic outlet syndrome, wiping out the rest of his 2017 season.
Karns went on the disabled list back on May 24 with arm stiffness that was initially believed to be minor. But after nearly two months of failed rehabilitation efforts, he’ll now undergo an operation that has become increasingly common in recent years, with prominent pitchers such as Matt Harvey, Phil Hughes, Josh Beckett, and Chris Carpenter having the surgery.
Karns, who was acquired from the Mariners for Jarrod Dyson in January, finishes his first season in Kansas City with a 4.17 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, striking out 51 hitters and walking 13 in 45.1 innings.
Karns is the third Royals pitcher in the past year to undergo thoracic outlet surgery. Reliever Luke Hochevar, a key member of the Royals’ World Series bullpen in 2015, had the surgery last August, and veteran right-hander Dillon Gee was shut down near the end of his lone season with Kansas City due to the ailment.
Since Karns has been on the disabled list, the Royals have given multiple starts to rookies Jake Junis and Eric Skoglund, both of whom have since been returned to Triple-A Omaha, and converted reliever Matt Strahm, who is now out for the season himself after having surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon. They’re currently operating with veteran Travis Wood as their fifth starter.
While Karns’ outlook has been murky for a while, the fact that he’s now definitely going to miss the rest of the season should only intensify the Royals’ efforts to acquire a fifth starter as they try to make a playoff run. They’ve recently been linked to Braves lefty Jaime Garcia (who is a former thoracic outlet patient himself), and they’re likely to look at other rental starters such as Lance Lynn, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, Andrew Cashner, and Jhoulys Chacin.