Right-hander Billy Muldowney, an eighth-round Cubs draft pick from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006, will undergo a second procedure on his right elbow to remove a bone spur.
Muldowney, 24, made only eight starts in 2007 before undergoing ulnar nerve transposition. He was shut down for the remainder of that season, but returned to make 18 starts between Class-A Peoria and Advanced Class-A Daytona in 2008. He was 6-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 85 1/3 innings.
Muldowney says that despite overly strong numbers a season ago, he never felt 100 percent. Normally at 88-92 mph with his fastball, he would often sit around 85 mph.
"When I was pitching my best, I would say I was at 85 percent," he said.
"In both Peoria and Daytona, I knew I was pitching at probably five to six miles per hour slower, and I [had] to rely on making things smooth, changing speeds and pitching to contact."
Muldowney said he was able to pitch uninterruptedly because the pain in his elbow was manageable. But that was not the case when he began throwing in minor league camp this spring.
"The more intense it got, the more I started to throw and actually work on things like [multiple] bullpens, hitting spots and snapping and breaking [the ball] off … that's when it started to become a problem and cross that line between manageable pain and unmanageable pain," he said.
"It really started affecting the way I threw and my velocity and pitch effectiveness."
Muldowney is expected to miss most of 2009. Barring any complications from the surgery, he'll likely spend two and a half to three months rehabbing and then another month on a throwing program.
Muldowney and Cubs doctors had hoped that the initial procedure performed on his elbow in 2007 would remove the bone spur once and for all. But additional complications following such procedures are not entirely unheard of.
"Obviously surgery on anything is extremely complex," Muldowney said. "That area of bone is really sensitive. If they shave it down too far, it can compromise the ligament, and if they don't shave it down far enough, obviously you can still have pain.
"It's nobody's fault by any means. There's like a 10 percent chance in all patients where they shaved down any bone spur that it will grow back."
Muldowney is 9-10 with a 3.15 ERA, 132 strikeouts and 40 walks in 154 1/3 innings (37 games) with the Cubs over three minor league seasons.
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