Karsten Whitson injury: Gators ace sidelined by "continued shoulder fatigue"

Ronald Martinez

Karsten Whitson came to Florida as the Gators' finest recruit ever. But his career has been marred by injury, and another one will likely have him missing a fair bit of the 2013 season.

Florida pitcher Karsten Whitson will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time with "continued shoulder fatigue," Florida announced on Wednesday.

Here's the full quote from Florida baseball's athletic trainer on GatorZone.

"Karsten has been battling continued shoulder fatigue," said Gator Baseball Head Athletic Trainer Pat Hassell. "We have pursued a conservative management plan to treat this issue. Karsten is evaluating further options at this time that will allow for a healthy and productive return to baseball."

"A healthy and productive return to baseball" is not "a healthy and productive return to Florida baseball," you'll note, and I don't think it sounds ominous for no reason. Baseball America reporting that Whitson will visit Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday certainly doesn't sound good, either.

The explanation of this injury is also vaguer than the explanations Florida gave reporters for an injury that cost Whitson more than a month of the 2012 season, which reporters were told in 2012 was a groin injury that Whitson said sapped some of his arm strength. But Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan told reporters last week that Whitson had arm trouble before the 2012 season. And it's been reported that Whitson also struggled with forearm tendinitis in 2012.

Whitson was a top-10 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, and shocked the world by becoming the first top-10 high school pitcher in nearly 20 years to go to a four-year college instead of the pros. He was projected to be a first-rounder again come the 2013 MLB Draft, but his draft stock has been damaged by his injury.

It's unlikely that Florida, or anyone, will ever sign a high school pitcher that highly-regarded again, but the story of Whitson having arm trouble from before his sophomore season onward — which has only developed in hindsight — makes Florida look bad for using him even as much as it did in 2011, when he tied Florida's team high with 19 starts and threw 97.1 innings on the year en route to being named National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game and picking up a bunch of Freshman All-American honors.

Now, Whitson's future is cloudy, not bright, and Florida's is, too — Whitson was expected to be Florida's Saturday starter behind Jonathon Crawford, at least, and his injury will likely force the Gators to rely on sophomores Corey Stump and Johnny Magliozzi as weekend starters. Whitson wasn't the key to Florida's 2012 College World Series run (though he did see time on the mound for the Gators in the postseason, and picked up the win in the Omaha-clinching Super Regional victory over N.C. State), but that team had more power and far more pitching depth, with Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson in the rotation.

And Whitson, frankly, may be putting millions on the line with every start that he makes for Florida this year if his arm isn't totally right. He'd already given up plenty by choosing to delay his entry to the professional ranks, and injury has cost him more, but if he looks terrible or aggravates an injury by coming back too soon, he may well start tumbling out of the top rounds of the MLB Draft.

Florida's 2013 was supposed to feature first round-caliber arms in Crawford and Whitson as the double-barreled weekend lead-in, and the strength of a very young team. Instead, it looks like Crawford may have to be an ace and a half for the Gators, while Whitson decides whether helping this Florida team is worth risking his pro career.

Injury is cruel.

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