Mariners’ Drew Smyly to have Tommy John surgery, won’t pitch in 2017

Jun 28, 2017, 10:47 AM | Updated: 2:02 pm
Drew Smyly will miss all of his first season with the M's and likely much of 2018 because of an elb...
Drew Smyly will miss all of his first season with the M's and likely much of 2018 because of an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. (AP)

The Mariners had hoped to have Drew Smyly finally join their rotation around the All-Star break. Now they’re not even sure he’ll ever be a part of their team.

Already out since the end of spring training with a left elbow flexor bundle strain, even worse news concerning Smyly came out Wednesday morning: The 28-year-old left-hander has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm and needs Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out for all of this season and maybe all of next year, too.

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“Feel bad for Drew,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I know how excited he was when we acquired him, and him getting an opportunity to pitch in Seattle and how excited he was to be part of the team, all the other good stuff, and then it got away from him. The injury, certainly he did everything he could to try to get back with us, doing all the treatments and procedures and whatnot to try to figure it out. … I know everybody was excited about getting him back, but that’s obviously not going to happen. I don’t want to say ‘woe is us’ again or the sky is falling. It is what it is. We’ve dealt with a lot of things this year and we’ll deal with this one.”

The club made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the surgery is tentatively scheduled for July 6 and will be performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. The Mariners’ press release notes that the typical recovery for this procedure – ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, better known as Tommy John surgery – is 12 to 15 months. Smyly will rehab near his offseason home in Dallas, according to the team.

Smyly, who came to Seattle in January via a trade with Tampa Bay, threw to live hitters for the first time since suffering his injury in late March in a short simulated game last Saturday, and at first it seemed like an encouraging sign that he could return sometime shortly after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel good coming out of the session.

“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.”

A second sim game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but the Mariners scratched that on Tuesday, raising concern that Smyly’s injury was worse than originally suspected.

A six-year veteran of the majors, Smyly spent three years each with Detroit and Tampa Bay before coming to Seattle. He is eligible for his third year of arbitration in 2018 and set to be a free agent in 2019, meaning if his recovery from Tommy John surgery lasts through the 2018 season, his contract with Seattle could end with him never throwing a pitch in the regular season in a Mariners uniform.

Smyly is 31-27 in his career with a 3.74 ERA in 156 games, including 85 starts. His best season came in 2014, when he posted a 3.24 ERA over 28 games (25 starts) with both the Tigers and Rays. After arriving in Tampa Bay as part of a three-team trade that also saw Seattle send Nick Franklin to the Rays and receive Austin Jackson from the Tigers, Smyly went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in seven starts.

Smyly had a strong spring training with Seattle, but the highlight of his March was an impressive outing pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in a duel against Team Venezuela and his Mariners teammate, Felix Hernandez. He struck out eighth in 4 2/3 innings in a 3-2 United States win, but the timing of the performance raised eyebrows as he came down with his initial flexor bundle strain less than two weeks later. The MLB has dealt with a spate of injuries to notable players in 2017 after the WBC, which requires players to ramp up their intensity more than usual in the spring. editor Brady Henderson contributed to this report.

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