Prairie Ridge sophomore pitcher Ethan Routzahn soon will meet someone who is world famous.
Unfortunately, that person is renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who will examine, and likely perform surgery on, the torn ulnar collateral ligament in Routzahn’s right elbow.
Routzahn, a promising 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander, suffered an injury to his elbow April 11 against Woodstock North. An MRI last week revealed there is a tear in his UCL that likely will require Tommy John Surgery. Routzahn is scheduled to see Andrews on April 29 in Florida and could have surgery the next morning.
“I struck out the first three batters and got the first guy in the second inning,” Routzahn said. “With the second batter, I felt a pop in my elbow and tried to throw a couple more pitches. I had to get taken out. I was extremely upset. I wanted to be able to help my team be the best it could be. But now I have to focus on rehabbing my arm and cheering on my team the rest of the season.”
Routzahn will move with his father, Rob, to The Woodlands, Texas, this summer and finish high school in that area. It will allow him to work with pitching coach Rob Wolforth, who teaches the “Athletic Pitcher Workout.” Routzahn has worked for years with Wolforth in summer months. Wolforth’s program is designed to increase velocity, and Routzahn said he was clocked at 88 mph with a speed gun this year.
Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro had big plans for Routzahn this season.
“He had been throwing really well,” Pecoraro said. “He threw in the second through fourth innings against Barrington and shut them down. His breaking ball was better, he was getting his changeup and slider over. We were excited about his progress.”
When the injury occurred, Pecoraro wanted to be positive, but said pitching coach Andy Deain predicted what had happened from previous experience.
“It’s too bad. The kid’s worked his tail off and bought into what Rob Wolforth teaches. He’s really dedicated to that,” Pecoraro said. “By the end of the season, he was going to be really good and then be lights out in his junior and senior seasons. He’s got the best guy in the world doing his surgery. A lot of those guys come back stronger after surgery.”
Routzahn gained acclaim through USA Baseball’s National Team Identification Series early in his freshman year of high school. He was selected from the Great Lakes Regional team to try out with USA Baseball’s 16U group for the national team.
Routzahn thought Wolforth’s throwing program, which relies on weighted balls, long toss and core body exercises, had helped him progress. For the most part, Wolforth’s program helped pitchers gain velocity and remain injury-free.
“There’s really no justice,” Pecoraro said. “His core and strength are tremendous. He has things set up in their basement for the program. He’s never had any elbow pain. Wolforth told Ethan and his dad sometimes it just happens.”
Routzahn looks forward to rehabilitation and being close to work with Wolforth in the future.
“I’m thankful I’m used to that [program],” Routzahn said. “It will help strengthen and prevent this from happening again. He’s worked with a bunch of guys who had this and got them better than they were before they got hurt.”