On the night of April 20, the news broke from D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers that Florida ace left handed pitcher Hunter Barco was being shut down indefinitely with elbow discomfort. Rogers’ tweet added that Barco would continue to be evaluated by doctors.
The process of Barco continuing to be evaluated by doctors played out, and doctors discovered that the worst case scenario was the reality. Hunter Barco will require reconstructive surgery on his UCL, which is also known as Tommy John surgery. The absolute earliest noted recovery time for Tommy John surgery for a baseball pitcher is about nine months; in order for a pitcher to return to top form, ten months to a little over a year is more common.
That means that Barco is not only done for this season, but he is likely out for a good portion of the 2023 baseball season- whether that’s for Florida or a professional organization. As for which of those it will be, Barco told me tonight that, “The most important thing right now is his recovery and supporting the Gators to help them make a late run to the postseason, and will make draft decisions at a later date.” So we’ll have to wait on that.
I also spoke to Barco a few days after he felt the discomfort in his elbow against Vanderbilt. “My arm had been feeling weaker and weaker over the last couple weeks,” Barco told me. “You could kind of see it with the velocity dropping and my stuff not being as sharp. But it just felt really wrong against Vandy and on the 0-1 fastball to Bradfield in the second I felt a pop.”
And then, because Hunter Barco is an incredible competitor, he added: “But I finished the inning.”
But for as fierce a competitor as Hunter Barco may be, the smile that sentence may elicit is only a temporary reprieve from the dreariness of the news- both for Barco and Florida. Florida is currently riding a high note of an up-and-down season, having won three out of its last four games, but Barco is the unquestioned ace of the staff; not having his presence will hurt, to say the least. And for Barco- a kid that was robbed of most of his 2020 season due to COVID- the news that his 2022 season is prematurely over is extremely disappointing, too.
As saddening as the news is, though, Barco tells me that he’s keeping his head up- and his goals are all team-focused. “This team is my family,” Barco told me. “I have learned more about myself as a person and a player, and that is due to the love and the brotherhood that surrounds me. I have these guys’ backs forever just as I know they have mine.”