KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros left-handed relief pitcher Sergio Escalona was told Saturday he has a torn ligament in his left elbow and will have to undergo Tommy John surgery next week in Houston. He will miss the entire 2012 season.
Escalona, 27, appeared in 49 games for the Astros last year and went 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA as the team's left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
"Obviously, Sergio is an effective left-handed pitcher and we're going to have to find someone to replace him," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It's definitely a setback."
Escalona injured his elbow swinging a bat early in the spring and pitched in just two Grapefruit League games because of discomfort. An MRI taken on Escalona's elbow Friday at Florida Hospital revealed the tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
"They told me there were two options," Escalona said. "One option was shutting down half of the season and start recovering again. I didn't want to take the chance. The thing is, they told me you can do that, but if you start hurting again at the end of the season you have to take the surgery anyway. The best option is take the surgery right now and get ready for the next Spring Training. It's going to be a long year for me doing the rehab."
Escalona was acquired by the Astros in a trade with the Phillies on Jan. 10, 2011, and was a valuable bullpen piece.
"I thought this was going to be my year in the big leagues," Escalona said. "You have to learn to handle things this. I'm OK with that. What can I say?"
The Astros have left-handers Wesley Wright and Fernando Abad still in camp, as well as veteran Zach Duke, who's competing for a spot in the bullpen and in the rotation.
"This probably makes us think about Duke's role if he doesn't win a spot in the rotation," Luhnow said. "[Xavier] Cedeno pitched well, even though he was reassigned [Friday]. He's pitched well and he's shown he's got some future as a lefty out of the bullpen. There are some options and we're not panicking. We'd prefer to have a healthy Sergio on the team, but it's not to be and we're going to move onto Plan B."
Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.