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CLEVELAND — After getting a second opinion on his sprained right elbow, Cleveland Guardians starter Triston McKenzie will continue his rehab program with the hope he can avoid surgery and return to the mound this season.

McKenzie was shut down recently after just his second start because of discomfort in his elbow. He was diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that often requires Tommy John surgery.

The 25-year-old was examined last week by Guardians team physician Dr. Mark Schickendantz, who recommended rest and rehab. The team encouraged McKenzie to see other specialists, and it’s been decided that he will be shut down for three more weeks.

“He feels real good now about the direction he wants to go,” manager Terry Francona said Monday before the Guardians opened a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves. “I guess you call it the conservative way, which is nonsurgical.”

Francona said McKenzie will continue to get therapy over the next three weeks before he picks up a ball. If all goes well, McKenzie could be back in the season’s final weeks.

“It would give him a chance to pitch for us this year,” Francona said. “I think that’s important. And I think he thinks that. I think everybody thinks that it’s important, so he doesn’t go into the offseason not knowing.”

McKenzie went 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA in 30 starts last season. He’s considered one of Cleveland’s core starters, and potentially the staff’s ace, depending on what the Guardians decide to do with Shane Bieber with the trade deadline approaching.

Francona said it’s always difficult assessing injuries that could have long-term consequences for a player, which is why the team encourages players to gather as much information as possible.

“As much as we want to win, you can’t not care about them and do this job,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way. And so you immediately kind of change into a different mode — ‘OK, what’s best for him?’ And since none of us really know that, that’s why we encourage getting the multiple opinions.”

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Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie hoping for 2023 return