Craig Stammen knows the end has come after latest shoulder injury

Craig Stammen, the Padres’ reserve, has injured his right shoulder again and a 13-year major league career is almost certainly over.

“Without saying I’m done,” Stammen said Sunday morning, “it’s highly unlikely I’ll pitch again.”

On Friday, Stammen suffered a capsule tear in the throwing shoulder and a strained subscapula. The injuries are related to a full-thickness tear to his rotator cuff that Stammen sustained last season.

He was told the recovery time for his ailments without surgery was four to six months. Surgery would be big and would entail a much longer rehab process.

Stammen rested for two months last summer and received a platelet-rich plasma injection. That allowed him to pitch at the end of the season. More rehab and more PRP injections in the offseason got him feeling good as spring began.

Walking off the mound against the Royals on Friday after feeling pain in his shoulder, he had pulled back the two batsmen he faced that day and thrown a total of four scoreless innings while conceding one hit this spring.

Though he smiled most of the time, there were times when Stammen’s voice faltered when he spoke on Sunday, and he let out a few long sighs. But he was laughing and talking to several teammates like it was any other day.

“I fight back tears when I talk to certain people,” Stammen said. “But I feel really good. I kind of knew this was possible last year, even in July. I went through the whole grieving process. Even the last game of the season I thought, ‘This could be my last game ever.’ So I went through all these things. So this isn’t as much of a shock as it could be.

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“And I have a strong faith and I’m grounded in that and I know the keys to the rest of my life are in bigger hands than my own. So we’re excited to see what all this could entail. And I think great things are ahead. Hopefully, while game days are probably over, there will be some other days — maybe inside or outside of the game of baseball — that will be very positive, uplifting, and a lot of fun.”

Stammen began his career in 2009 as a regular at the Nationals. After a year of rehabilitation following flexor tendon surgery, Stammen signed a minor-league deal with the Padres in 2017, turning the team out of camp.

No player was longer in the team. During his time with the Padres, he pitched more innings (394 1/3) than any major league reliever. During this time he also became a mentor to many players and shaped the clubhouse on an equal footing with Manny Machado and Joe Musgrove.

He was back at camp as a non-cadre invitee and knew his chances of making the team were slim. But he had been here at the start of a roster rebuild and wanted a chance to be here if the team won a World Series.

“I’m trying to hold out as long as I can to be a part of it,” Stammen said earlier this spring.

On Sunday he was not ready to talk about his future.

“At this point today, I can’t imagine not being a baseball player,” Stammen said. “Technically I still am today. And hopefully they might let me into rehab for a while.”

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