Tanner Witt sets his eyes on returning to the mound

Joseph Mireles, General Sports Reporter

It was March 6, 2022. The stage was set. The Shriners Children’s College Classic, Minute Maid Park, Texas vs. UCLA. The hometown kid Tanner Witt was set to get the start. However, Witt would never step on the mound on that day. Just prior to the game, it was announced that the sophomore right-hander would be scratched from the lineup.

UCL — three letters that pitchers are terrified to hear. Witt heard these letters that Sunday. 

The ulnar collateral ligament is located in the elbow and is used when throwing a baseball. This ligament is a pitcher’s livelihood. A torn UCL can often mark the end of a pitcher’s career, usually forcing pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery. 

Although the ligament can be repaired, pitchers who undergo Tommy John may not return to their full potential, or in some cases, they may not return at all. Following the surgery, pitchers face an extensive and grueling rehabilitation process. On average it takes about nine to twelve months for pitchers to return from the operation. Over a year later, Witt is battling to recover from the long and grueling rehabilitation.

As a sophomore in 2022, Witt had a strong start to the season. The right-hander appeared in two games going 2–0 with a 1.64 ERA. In 11 innings pitched, Witt allowed nine hits, had 14 strikeout victims and only surrendered three walks. It would be an understatement to say Witt was a huge loss to the Texas pitching rotation. Where it stands now, Witt is working his way through the rehab process in hopes of making a mid-season return to the mound.

Witt is “way ahead of schedule” in his rehab process, head coach David Pierce said to the Austin American-Statesman.

“He wants to pitch,” Pierce said. “I think the earliest would probably be mid-April. That would be the earliest timeline, and we’ll be smart with it.”

Witt continues to stay positive about his progress.

 “I feel good. The elbow feels really good, which is a relief,” he said to Prospects Live’s 2023 MLB Draft Show. “I haven’t had any problems, any setbacks (and I’m) feeling really strong.”

Tanner Witt would certainly elevate the current Longhorns pitching staff. Upon his return to the pitching staff, Witt will join current Friday night starter junior Lucas Gordon, redshirt junior Zane Morehouse and redshirt sophomores Travis Sthele and Lebarron Johnson Jr.