Duncan has partial tear in elbow
Sophomore will attempt rehabilitation; surgery may loom
The mystery surrounding Shelley Duncan's arm came to an end last night as the starting right fielder revealed he has a partial ligament tear in his elbow.
"I have a torn ligament," he said. "It's torn, but not all the way."
At the advice of his father, St. Louis Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan, the 6-foot 4-inch sophomore has opted to attempt to rehabilitate his elbow naturally rather than having surgery on his right arm.
"I'm going to rest it for the next three weeks (and) ice it a lot," he said. "Hopefully, it'll heal."
Duncan injured his elbow in a rare pitching appearance March 25 against No. 1 Stanford. He was immediately pulled from the game and has not played since.
"I was excited (to pitch)," he said. "Last season, I sucked. At the beginning of the year, coach told me to try again. I had been pitching well."
Duncan will be re-examined in three weeks to see if the elbow has healed itself. If not, the only recourse for him will be reconstructive elbow surgery.
"In three weeks, I'll pick up a bat and try to hit off a tee," he said. "If there's still problems, my only option will be surgery."
Junior rightfielder Ryan O'Donnell will likely continue to fill in for Duncan.
"Ryan is stepping up in right field, but we are hoping to get Shelley back as soon as possible - get his bat back in our lineup," senior centerfielder Troy Gingrich said.
Duncan said that following an initial examination, UA team doctors suggested that surgery be performed. After contacting his father and other physicians, Duncan decided to wait and see if the arm could heal itself.
"My dad talked to millions of people," he said. "It's fortunate that my dad cares that much about me. He was overdoing it a bit."
The injury has put the 19-year old in a tough spot - should he require surgery, it would take nearly a year to rehabilitate the arm. Should the arm heal itself, Duncan still may never pitch again.
"I signed here to pitch," he said. "If I don't get surgery, it'll put extra pressure on my arm. My pitching days are shot."
Torn elbow ligaments are no stranger to the team, as senior Rob Shabansky attempted to rest his arm following a partial tear in 1998, only to completely tear it in his first outing last season. Duncan, who lists Shabansky as one of his best friends, often consulted the senior following the injury.
"We've talked everyday about it," he said. "(Shabansky) has his locker right next to me. He worked really hard to get back (following surgery)."
According to Duncan, the hardest part of the injury and subsequent rehabilitation will be the psychological strain associated with not being a part of the team.
"Last weekend (against Southern California) was depressing for me," he said. "For the first time in my life, I sat in the stands and wasn't able to practice. It's tough knowing that you're not going to be dressing or sitting on the bench. It's the toughest thing in the world."