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Rays De Leon vows to come back ‘better and stronger’ after Tommy John surgery

By Marc Topkin
RHP Jose De Leon is the second top young Rays pitcher to be hurt this spring. [Times files 2017]

Rays RHP Jose De Leon said he is taking a "really positive" outlook about having Tommy John elbow surgery and is confident he will come back "better and stronger."

"I know it's another obstacle in the way but the mission is the same," De Leon said Thursday morning. "So I'm really excited about this comeback."

De Leon said it's "tough to say" exactly when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament requiring the surgery.

He said he felt some "tightness" after throwing in Saturday's game and knew something was wrong about halfway through a Tuesday bullpen session but "never felt a pop" or pain on a specific pitch.

De Leon saw Rays orthodpedist Dr. Koco Eaton on Wednesday and will next visit noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews with plans to have the surgery done "the sooner the better."

With an average 15-month recovery and then minor-league games he likely won't be back in top form until the middle of the 2019 season.

De Leon was acquired from the Dodgers in January 2017 and had a rough first season, spent mostly in the minors with three stints on the DL, twice for arm issues.

De Leon was expected to open this season at Triple-A but pitch in the majors for the Rays at some point during the year.