Casey Kelly stood in a darkened hallway off the San Diego Padres’ clubhouse last week and extended his damaged right arm to a visitor offering sympathy. “Sports,” Kelly said, gamely, with a smile and a shrug.

Kelly, 23, a promising right-hander, had just returned to spring training from San Diego, where tests had revealed microtears in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow. Kelly had tried to fix his soreness through an off-season of rest and rehabilitation, but is now headed for reconstructive elbow surgery. Yes, major injuries are a hazard of sports.

But pitching injuries, in particular, have been vexing for Kelly’s team, which envisioned a rotation built around pitchers who have not stayed healthy. Kelly could become the fourth Padres pitcher to have Tommy John surgery in the last year. Another, Andrew Cashner, missed time with a strained muscle last season and narrowly avoided disaster in December when a friend sliced his right thumb with a knife in a hunting accident.

He worked in meat processing and taxidermy for five years, “so I’ve cleaned animals my whole life,” said Cashner, a proud Texan. “I usually don’t clean animals with another person, but this time I just happened to. There’s nobody better with a knife than me.”

Few are better with a fastball, either. Cashner averaged 97.7 miles an hour with his fastball in 2012, although he worked just 461/3 innings for the Padres. General Manager Josh Byrnes said Cashner would be limited this season to 130 to 150 innings.

The Padres’ last winning season was 2010, when they lost a playoff spot on the season’s final day. That off-season, they traded their best player, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, to Boston for a package including Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. After a year, Byrnes flipped Rizzo to the Chicago Cubs for Cashner.