Craig Stammen knows the end has come after latest shoulder injury

Padres reliever Craig Stammen reinjured his right shoulder, and a 13-year major league career is almost certainly over.

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

Stammen suffered a torn capsule and strained the subscapula in his throwing shoulder Friday. The injuries are related to the full thickness tear in his rotator cuff Stammen endured last season.

He was told the recovery time for what ails him is four to six months without surgery. A surgery would be major and involve 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. Further rehab and more PRP injections in the offseason had him feeling good at the start of spring and right up until Friday.

When he walked off the mound Friday against the Royals, having felt pain in his shoulder, he had retired the two batters he faced that day and had thrown a total of four scoreless innings while allowing one hit this spring.

Even as he smiled most of the time, there were moments on Sunday that Stammen’s voice caught as he spoke, and he let out a few long sighs. But he laughed and talked with several teammates as if it were any other day.

“I’m fighting back tears talking to certain people,” Stammen said. “But I feel really at peace. I kind of knew this was a possibility last year, even in July. I kind of went through the whole grieving process. Even the last game of the season, I was like, ‘This could be my last game ever.’ So I went through all that kind of stuff. So this isn’t as much of a shock as what it could be.

“And I have a strong faith and (am) grounded in that and know that the keys to the rest of my life are in greater hands than my own. So kind of looking forward to what that might entail, and I think there’s big things ahead. So even though the playing days are probably over, hopefully there are some other days — maybe within the game of baseball or without it — that are going to be very positive and uplifting and a lot of fun.”

San Diego Padres pitcher Craig Stammen

San Diego Padres pitcher Craig Stammen

(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Stammen began his career in 2009 as a starter for the Nationals. Following a year rehabbing after flexor tendon surgery, Stammen signed a minor-league contract with the Padres in 2017 and made the team out of camp.

No current player had been with the team longer. During his time with the Padres, he threw more innings (394 1/3) than any major league reliever. In that time, he also became a mentor to many players and carried sway in the clubhouse on par with Manny Machado and Joe Musgrove.

Padres manager Bob Melvin, who had Stammen take the lineup cards out before postseason games last year as a nod of respect, thought for a minute Sunday morning before saying he had never known a relief pitcher to have as strong a presence as Stammen did in a clubhouse.

“I felt it the minute I got here,” Melvin said. “… There’s ton of respect for the natural leaders — Musgrove and Manny and so forth — but Craig’s right up at that level.”

Stammen was in camp as a non-roster invitee, knowing 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 when the team won a World Series.

“I’m trying to hang on as long as possible to be a part of it,” Stammen said earlier this spring.

Craig Stammen and Padres manager Jayce Tingler celebrate after beating Cardinals in 2020.

Craig Stammen and Padres manager Jayce Tingler celebrate after beating Cardinals in 2020.

(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

He wanted to finish his career in brown and gold, but he acknowledged recently that he would pitch elsewhere this season if that was the opportunity available.

“If another team wants me to play, for sure I’m gonna play for them,” he said Thursday. “I feel too good, and I’m having a lot of fun. … That’s not where my head’s at. But I know how the game works. But my focus right now is to be the best version of myself and prove to them that I still got it and that I can be a valuable option for them as well.”

On Sunday, he was not ready to contemplate his future.

“At this point today, I can’t imagine myself as not a baseball player,” Stammen said. “Today, I technically still am. And hopefully maybe they’ll let me rehab for a little while.”

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