The Heroes’ ‘ace’ successfully completed surgery. Kiwoom Heroes right-handed pitcher Ahn Woo-jin, who underwent elbow surgery, shared his latest news.
On the 22nd, Ahn Woo-jin posted on his SNS (social networking service),스포츠토토 “Hello. I am Kiwoom Heroes pitcher Ahn Woo-jin, and I have successfully completed the surgery amidst the worries and support of many people.” “Thankfully, the surgery was performed by Dr. Elitrache, the best doctor in the world, and I will work even harder for rehabilitation as it was a successful surgery,” he said.
Earlier, Ahn Woo-jin visited Cheongdan Lion Orthopedic Surgery on the 1st to treat his right elbow pain caused by accumulated fatigue. However, during the pre-treatment ultrasound, there was a suspicion of ligament damage, and he was diagnosed with a damaged medial collateral ligament in his right elbow after a detailed examination including MRI and CT scans.
The news was devastating for both the team and the player, but there was no time to dwell on it. Before being removed from the first-team roster, Ahn said through the club, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t stay with the team until the end of the season, and I apologize to the fans. I apologize to the manager, coaches, and teammates for falling into a difficult period for the team, regardless of my personal performance. I will have a good surgery and come back healthy.”
With the goal of a speedy recovery, Kiwoom planned Ahn’s surgery without any additional tests, and he underwent elbow ligament splicing surgery (Tommy John surgery) at the Kellan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles, California, USA, on July 21.
Ahn’s surgeon was Dr. Neil Ellatrache, who is one of the “household names” in American sports. Over the years, he has met some of the biggest names in Major League Baseball (MLB), including Clayton Kershaw and Albert Pujols, and has also worked with the ‘Korean Monster’ Ryu Hyun-jin (Toronto Blue Jays).
Dr. Elatrache performed a shoulder labral tear in 2015, a surgery to remove necrotic tissue from his elbow in 2016, and an elbow ligament splicing surgery last year. He also performed elbow ligament reconstruction surgery on Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels), who was declared season-ending on April 20.
Ahn joined the Nexen (now Kiwoom) Heroes in the first round in 2018 and has shown improvement every season, culminating in his best season last year with a 15-8 record and 2.11 ERA in 30 games and 196 innings pitched. He struck out 224 batters, breaking the single-season record for strikeouts by a Korean pitcher in the KBO. He was equally dominant in the postseason, helping the team to its third Korean Series runner-up finish.
This season, Ahn continued his dominance with a 9-7 record with a 2.39 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 24 games and 150⅔ innings pitched. In the month of April, she went 2-1 with a 0.97 ERA in six games and 37 innings pitched, and then continued to build on her wins in May and June.
In the second half of the year, he pitched five or more innings in every game and had three consecutive quality starts before his injury. As the team began to lose more games, the team fell away from fall baseball, but Ahn continued to rotate through the starting rotation and play the role of ace.
“Even though I can’t be there for the end of the 2023 season, I’ll always be there in my heart,” Ahn said as she watched her teammates perform on the TV screen. “Please keep an eye on my teammates, club officials, and fans. I will come back as a stronger Ahn Woo-jin. Thank you.” He expressed his determination to make a successful comeback.
Typically, pitchers who undergo elbow ligament splicing surgery have to spend 12 to 18 months rehabbing before they can return to the field. In fact, he’s unlikely to pitch next season, with the most likely scenario being the 2025 season at the earliest. Nevertheless, Kiwoom will wait for their ace to return, and Ahn Woo-jin will start fighting his own battles as he looks forward to taking the mound at Gocheok SkyDome.