Smyly is tentatively scheduled to undergo the procedure on July 6
Drew Smyly’s season is over without ever really starting for the Seattle Mariners.
On Wednesday, the team announced that Smyly will under surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, ending his 2017 campaign. The reconstruction procedure known as “Tommy John surgery” is tentatively scheduled for July 6 and will be performed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
“I feel bad for Drew,” manager Scott Servais said. “I know how excited he was when we acquired him, and him getting and opportunity to pitch in Seattle, how excited he was to be part of the team, all the other good stuff. It got away from him. The injury, certainly he didn’t everything he could to try to get back with us, doing all the treatments and procedures and whatnot to try to figure it out.”
After throwing a simulated inning of 25 pitches on Saturday, Smyly told doctors that something with his arm didn’t feel right. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre noted that Smyly said there was tightness in his elbow when he was throwing breaking pitches. The simulated game that he was scheduled to throw on Wednesday was scratched. Smyly was then examined by team doctors again.
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“Coming out of the simulated game the other day, I actually thought it was OK for the first time being out there,” Servais said. “It didn’t wow you with the stuff, but coming in after that, he made mention to our trainers that it didn’t feel all that great. I was just, ‘Typical soreness.’ I was trying to stay positive throughout the whole thing. Then, doctors took some more looks at it. Just found out a little bit ago where it’s heading.”
The hope was that Smyly would return after the All-Star break and help a rotation that is being held together with duct tape and pitchers that weren’t expected to contribute this season. But that hope has been extinguished. And with Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation) not expected to return any time soon, the Mariners rotation consists of James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Ariel Miranda, Sam Gaviglio and likely Andrew Moore.
“I guess it creates some clarity in where we are going,” Servais said. “We get through the rest of the year with the guys we’ve got and how important they are. Pax and Felix and Miranda need to keep rolling along. Everybody needs to continue to do their part. It’s just hard. It hurts a little bit, but I feel bad for Drew. It is what it is. We’ve dealt with a lot of things this year, and we’ll deal with this one.”
Typical recovery time from a UCL reconstruction surgery is 12 to 15 months. The plan is for Smyly to do his post-surgery rehabilitation near his home in Dallas. Smyly is under club control for next season as a third-year arbitration eligible player. He will be a free agent after the 2018 season.
Targeted by general manager Jerry Dipoto early in the offseason to fill a No. 3-4 spot in the starting rotation, the Mariners acquired Smyly in a trade in December. In the early parts of spring training, he looked outstanding.
Smyly pitched in a Cactus League game on March 6 against the Rangers, throwing three scoreless innings, allowing one hit with a walk and three strikeouts. He threw one inning three days later on March 9 in a “B”” game instead of throwing his traditional bullpen session. He then flew to Miami to join the United States for the WBC. Smyly made one brilliant start for the U.S. on on March 15 against Venezuela, pitching 4 2/3 innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits with eight strikeouts. In that game, he was hitting 94 mph with his fastball, which was unusually high for him. He downplayed the spike in velocity, attributing it to adrenaline and extended rest.
When he returned from the WBC, he made two middling starts. He gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts in four innings pitched of “B” game against the Padres Class AAA affiliate on March 21. He returned to Cactus League action on March 26, pitching four innings against the Reds, allowing five runs on six hits with four walks, a strikeout and three homers allowed. Three days later after his bullpen, he notified the Mariners of the discomfort in his elbow. He was scratched from his final start of the spring and met with Mariners’ team orthopedist Dr. Edward Khlafayan to have his arm checked.
“We gave up good players to get him,” Servais said. “Certainly thought he was a great fit on our club and where he was at in his career to kind of take the next step and pitch in our ballpark. Thought it was going to be a home run, just never materialized. The WBC and a lot of other stuff happened. Injuries happen. They’re part of the game.”