PEORIA, Ariz. – The early diagnosis confirmed what everyone had feared — a serious injury to the forearm/elbow of Roenis Elias, which meant there was little hope that he would pitch out of the Mariners bullpen in 2021, and manager Scott Servais couldn’t hide the dejection in his voice when he announced the veteran left-hander wouldn’t pitch this year.
“I did hear this just a little bit ago, an update on him,” Servais said. “He is headed towards having surgery. I’m not sure what surgery it is. We knew it was pretty serious after he came out of the game and then on the initial findings on the MRI. He’s had multiple doctors look at it. Everybody agrees that probably the only route for him to go at this point.”
Major League Baseball sources confirmed that Elias suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow with an injury to his flexor tendon. He will have the ligament replaced in a procedure commonly known as Tommy John surgery in the coming days.
The Mariners have not announced which orthopedist will perform the surgery. The usual surgeons who specialize in the procedure are Dr. James Andrews in Alabama, Dr. David Altchek in New York, Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles and Dr. Keith Meister out of Dallas, where Elias lives during the offseason.
Because he was on a minor-league contract and not the 40-man roster, Elias can’t go on the injured list and accrue service time. As for the Mariners’ honoring his deal, sources indicate that the team has offered Elias a two-year minor-league contract to keep him in the organization, aid him with his rehab and recovery and have him for next season.
Elias suffered the injury on Thursday, likely on the second of three pitches he threw in the outing before understanding something wasn’t right with his arm.
“I don’t think it was the last pitch he threw, but the one before that,” Servais said. “He certainly felt it. I feel bad for him he was off to a great start. I was really excited to have him back, knowing what he can do and what he could add to a bullpen. I know he’s upset about it. But hopefully things will work out.”
Elias, 32, was in his third stint with Seattle having signed a minor-league contract with an invite to MLB spring training.
He did not pitch in a game last season. He went to spring training as a member of the Nationals and was part of their 60-player pool for summer camp. However, a positive test for COVID-19 delayed his return. And once he was finally cleared, he suffered a strained flexor in his elbow. The Nats put him on the 60-day injured list. He was outrighted to the minors after the season and elected for free agency.
Seattle went to an open bullpen showcase he threw for scouts but admitted he didn’t look nearly as good as he did in his first few outings of spring training.
All indications were that he was pitching his way into a spot in the opening day bullpen.
In his first two outings, Elias’ fastball sat around 94-95 mph, and he showcased his typically nasty changeup and highly improved breaking ball. Based on his previous stint in the bullpen in 2019, the Mariners knew that Elias was versatile enough to pitch two-plus innings or close out a game in high-leverage situation. He had done both with success. The Mariners value the versatility he provided.
Servais admitted that they don’t have a pitcher quite like Elias in their camp.
“He’s very unique in that regard, where we’ve seen him close out games for us to being a multiple inning guy,” Servais said. “I don’t know if we have that guy right now. I think that’s why he was so intriguing and certainly with how he was throwing the ball, kind of like a Swiss Army knife. Those guys are super valuable. I’m really disappointed to see him go down.”
Jarred Kelenic’s leg looks just fine
It wasn’t the seven days he predicted, but Jarred Kelenic will be back playing in Cactus League games Wednesday night at the Peoria Sports Complex.
In his daily pregame media session, Servais confirmed what MLB sources told The Seattle Times early Tuesday that the Mariners’ outfield prospect would take at-bats in live batting practice in the afternoon workout and return to game action vs. the Angels the next night if he had no issues.
While he didn’t blast any home runs off right-handers Robert Dugger and Vinnie Nittoli, Kelenic did show that he had no lingering issues with the adductor muscle strain in his left leg.
After a brief conversation with Servais, in which he was told to test the leg running out of the batter’s box, Kelenic did that and more.
He pulled a hard ground ball to the right side of a field without fielders, exploded from the box like he had just ripped a double into the gap. He made a wide turn at first base, accelerated toward second and slid feet first as if to say, “put me back in games now!”
The slide drew some laughs from fans and a shake of the head from Servais, who chuckled at the over-the-top display.
Servais didn’t say whether Kelenic would start or come off the bench for Wednesday’s game.
The Mariners made a series of cuts from MLB camp over the past two days. After Monday’s game, they made the following roster moves:
Optioned to Mariners’ alternate site: Brandon Brennan, RHP, Wyatt Mills, RHP
Optioned to AAA Tacoma (1): Sam Delaplane, RHP
Reassigned to minor-league camp:
- Right-handed pitchers: Nick Duron, Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, Darren McCaughan, Jaime Schultz
- Left-handed pitcher: Brandon Williamson
- Catchers: Carter Bins, Josh Morgan
- Infielder: Jordan Cowan
Before Tuesday’s game, they made the following moves:
- Optioned to A Everett: Juan Then, RHP
- Reassigned to minor-league camp: Moises Gomez, RHP, Ian McKinney, LHP