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Athletics’ Jharel Cotton needs Tommy John surgery

Oakland may look at free agents to fill right-hander’s spot

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Athletics right-handed starter Jharel Cotton will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right ulnar collateral ligament, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle and Jane Lee of MLB.com.

Slusser reported on Thursday that the 26-year-old Cotton had been diagnosed with a sprained UCL and a strained flexor muscle. Cotton received a second opinion on his elbow and it confirmed the initial diagnosis, forcing the pitcher to opt for surgery. Cotton said to reporters that he will be looking to begin the long rehab following the surgery come back “strong” next year.

Acquired in 2016 during the Athletics’ trade with the Dodgers that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to Los Angeles, Cotton was entering his second full season with the A’s after going 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 129 innings pitched across 24 starts last year. This spring, he had posted a 3.75 ERA and a 1. 17 WHIP with 16 strikeouts in four appearances, three of which were starts.

With Cotton sidelined for the season, Slusser reported that Oakland manager Bob Melvin “suggests” the club might scan the free agent market for some pitchers as long as their “price tags have come down.”