Jon Roegele made a very important study concerning the history of Tommy John surgery, published in November of 2012 found here. Jon made a monumental effort tracking down the exact dates of the procedures, and researchers interested in recovery paths certainly need the starting dates in order to begin their studies. Roegele, building upon work by Jeff Zimmerman, has simplified this task. One will discover that Danny Duffy, for example, had his surgery on 6/13/12, which is helpful to know if one wants to study a case like that of Mr. Duffy.
Once we know the dates of the surgery, the next effort is to look up the individual players and discover when they were back on both minor league and major league pitching mounds. Minor League Central lists both minor league and major league game logs, and one should look here for Danny Duffy's 2013 efforts. Danny had his first minor league game post-surgery on 5/26/13, a bit more than eleven months after going under the knife. Duffy was back on a major league pitching mound on 8/7/13, just short of fourteen months after Tommy John surgery.
Problems exist for anyone estimating the recovery period from Tommy John surgery. First, it is assumed that medicine is improving and it is not exactly fair to compare current science with the earlier efforts, so one should probably take each yearly class of TJ separate from any other grouping. Second, it should be out-of-bounds to judge those later in a separate season class with those who had the procedure earlier in the year. No pitcher from the 2012 sample returned to the majors in 2013 if their operation occurred after 8/1/12. Third, only players with previous major league experience before the surgery should be expected to be pitching against the big boys after facing the scalpel for the following year, and probably only those with at least 50 combined major league innings for 2011 and 2012 should be eligible. Failure to have some arbitrary major league prior and recent innings experience would include prospects on the list who barely had a cup of coffee and veterans who had not seen the bright lights of the big cities for some long time and are probably over the hill.
Two guidelines for the Class of 2012 were used. First, the pitcher must have had his TJ on or before 8/1/12. Second, the pitcher must have thrown at least 50 major league innings sometime during 2011 and 2012. With these considerations, sixteen pitchers qualified. Sadly, 25% of the qualifying pitchers were members of the Kansas City Royals. I will list the pitchers by rate of fastest recovery in 2013.
1. Mike Pelfrey. Surgery 5/1/12. Major Leagues 4/4/13. No Minor Leagues. About 11 months for the majors.
2. Charlie Morton. Surgery 6/21/12. MiL 4/18/13. ML 6/13/13. About 10 months for the minors, but about 12 months for the majors.
3-4. Brandon Beachy and Luis Perez. (Beachy TJ 6/21/12, MiL 5/24/13, ML 7/29/13). Perez TJ 7/17/12, MiL 6/10/13, ML 9/4/13). Both took about 11 months for the minors and 13 months for the majors. Update: Beachy will require a second TJ (3/2014), Perez was dropped from the Jays' 40 man (3/2014), having had scar tissue removed from his elbow over the winter.
5. Neftali Feliz. TJ 8/1/12. MiL 8/2/13. ML 9/1/13. About 12 months for the minors and 13 months for the majors.
6. Danny Duffy. TJ 6/13/12. MiL 5/26/13. ML 8/7/13. About 11 months for the minors and 14 months for the majors.
7. Blake Wood. TJ 5/25/12. MiL 5/4/13. ML 9/2/13. About 11 months for the minors and 15 months for the majors.
8. Kyle Drabek. TJ 6/19/12. MiL 6/22/13. ML 9/7/13. About 12 months for the minors and 15 months for the majors. Drabek had previous experience with Tommy John surgery while back in high school.
9. Joakim Soria. TJ 4/3/12. MiL 6/20/13. ML 7/7/13. About 15 months for the minors and about 15 months for the majors. Soria had previous experience with Tommy John surgery.
10. Brian Wilson. TJ 4/19/12. MiL 7/31/13. ML 8/22/13. About 15 months for the minors and 16 months for the majors. Wilson had previous experience with Tommy John surgery.
11. Felipe Paulino. TJ 7/3/12. MiL 6/11/13. No majors. About 11 months for the minors. Reached AAA.
12. David Herndon. TJ 6/19/12, MiL 6/22/13. No majors. About 12 months for the minors. Reached AAA.
13. Scott Baker. TJ 4/17/12. MiL 7/14/13. No majors. About 15 months for the minors. Reached A+ ball.
14. Daniel Hudson. TJ 7/9/12. MiL 6/4/13. No majors. About 11 months for the minors, but only threw two innings in his one game and required another TJ (2013) after his effort.
15. Ryan Madson. TJ 4/11/12. MiL 5/13/13. No majors. About 13 months for the minors, but only threw one inning in his one game and was finished for the season due to complications from his 2012 TJ surgery. Update: Madson is still a free agent looking for work.
16. Cory Luebke. TJ 5/23/12. No majors. No minors. Luebke required another TJ (2014) after his 2012 procedure.
It appears that no sure timetable can be set for the recovery from Tommy John surgery and that each case is somewhat unique. For one Mike Pelfrey, someone might mention Cory Luebke.
Kansas City was unfortunate in losing valued members from their pitching staff to elbow woes in 2012. The Royals achieved recoveries better than some cases, so there remains hope for Luke Hochevar.