ESPN’s Passan: How concerning flexor injury to Mariners’ Robbie Ray is

Apr 4, 2023, 12:13 PM | Updated: 1:34 pm

Mariners Robbie Ray...

Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray reacts after being taken out of a game against Cleveland on March 31, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ 1-4 start isn’t the only troubling development from the early going of their season. Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that Robbie Ray, the 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner, landed on the injured list Saturday following a poor showing Friday night in his first start of the year.

Brock and Salk’s Mariners Truth Meter: How valid are the early concerns?

Ray’s velocity was down from what he showed in spring training as he lasted just 3 1/3 innings in a 9-4 Mariners loss to Guardians, allowing five runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks while striking out three. The following day, Seattle placed him on the 15-day IL with a Grade 1 flexor strain.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mariners general manager Justin Hollander told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy that the team expects Ray to miss about six weeks.

ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday morning, and he’s one of the better people in the game to talk to about arm injuries considering he wrote the book “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports.” Passan shared his read on Ray and injuries like the one he is dealing with, first by giving an explanation of what a flexor strain means for a pitcher.

“The way that the elbow operates is that when you throw a baseball and pronate through – which means if you watch every time guys throw baseballs, even when you’re throwing curveballs, sliders, your thumb ends up going down on your pitching hand,” Passan explained. “And when your thumb is going down, your hand is pronating or turning through the ball. And when you pronate properly, there’s a mass of of muscles in your forearm called the flexor mass that takes the brunt of the stress and the strain so it doesn’t rip your elbow apart considering how fast your arm is moving. When your flexor mass gets strained, when one of the muscles in there or the tendon has a slight tear in it, that tends to portend something worse.”

The big worry, as Passan said, is that flexor injuries usually precede ulnar collateral ligament tears in the elbow, which are the injuries that are repaired by Tommy John surgery, something that typically takes over a year for a pitcher to recover from.

That doesn’t mean Ray is doomed to eventually need a Tommy John procedure, though.

“Now, Robbie Ray is not there at this point, and flexor issues quite often do resolve without any further incident,” Passan said, “but it’s something that you can’t just look at and say, ‘Hey, you know, he’s gonna shake it off and come right back.’ Like, it’s gonna be a little while. And you’re always nervous that there’s something fundamental there, whether it’s in his delivery or otherwise, that caused this issue in the first place that is eventually going to cause something worse.”

Ray, a 31-year-old left-hander, has generally stayed healthy throughout his 10 years as a big leaguer. He has made at least 30 starts in a season four times in his career, including each of the last three full MLB seasons. That can be seen as both good news and bad news.

“I look at Robbie Ray throughout the course of his career, and one thing generally he’s done, the guy posts,” Passan said. “The guy throws innings, and I’ve never seen him as as an enormous injury risk. He tends to be a guy who makes the large complement of his starts, and he always has been. He puts up innings, so this is a little bit out of character. That to me is the more concerning part than the actual injury itself, the fact that this guy who’s out there almost every start for his whole career suddenly is getting shut down for something.”

Passan joins Brock and Salk at 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday live on Seattle Sports during the baseball season. Listen to this week’s conversation in the podcast below.

Fann: Mariners won’t get benefit of doubt for offseason as offense scuffles

Brock and Salk podcast

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Mostly Sunny
High 68° | Low 47°
Roof is open
Cubs at Mariners today at 6:40pm

Brock and Salk

Seattle Mariners prospect Jonny Farmelo...

Zac Hereth

A surprising Mariners prospect Jeff Passan would avoid trading

ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan says outfielder Jonny Farmelo is a Seattle Mariners prospect he be wary of trading away.

17 hours ago

Seattle Mariners trade target Luis Robert Jr....

Zac Hereth

Does a Luis Robert trade make sense for Mariners? Passan explains

Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert's name has come up as a trade candidate for the Seattle Mariners. Insider Jeff Passan weighs in.

1 day ago


Seattle Sports Video

Video: Seattle Mariners legend Jay Buhner talks about the return of Buhner Buzz night, the ’24 Mariners

What did Seattle Mariners legend Jay Buhner have to say about the return of Buhner Buzz night? What does he think about this 2024 version of the Mariners? He joined Brock Huard and Mike Salk to talk about that and what it means to bring back on of the fan favorite events from the 90’s. […]

2 days ago

Seattle Seahawks Ryan Grubb OTAs 2024...

Cameron Van Til

How will new Seahawks OC Grubb need to adjust playbook for NFL?

Brock Huard explains how new Seattle Seahawks OC Ryan Grubb might need to adjust his playbook as he transitions from college to the NFL.

2 days ago

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba 49ers 2023...

Cameron Van Til

What would breakout year from Seahawks’ JSN look like?

If Seattle Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba has a breakout season, what would that look like? Former NFL wideout Michael Bumpus weighs in.

3 days ago

Seattle Seahawks DL Dre'Mont Jones...

Zac Hereth

Blue 88: The best way Seahawks can use DL Dre’Mont Jones

Ex-Seattle Seahawks WR Michael Bumpus breaks down how DL Dre'Mont Jones can make his biggest impact in his second year with the team.

3 days ago

ESPN’s Passan: How concerning flexor injury to Mariners’ Robbie Ray is