Mariners’ David Phelps hopes to help in clubhouse during UCL recovery

Mar 22, 2018, 3:46 PM
Mariners pitcher David Phelps has been lost for the season with a torn UCL. (AP)...
Mariners pitcher David Phelps has been lost for the season with a torn UCL. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – David Phelps knows what lies ahead of him. Surgery, long rehab, but then hopefully light at the end of the tunnel.

“Work has never been a problem,” the Mariners right-hander said. “I love this game, I love the grind that it entails, so this is just another step.”

A disappointing and unexpected step.

Dipoto: David Phelps’ torn UCL a ‘big loss’ for Mariners

“I was locked in that last outing,” Phelps said of his appearance last Sunday against the Angels in which he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. “The second-to-last pitch is when I felt something. Threw another one and then…”

Then was a sound and an unfamiliar feeling. He thought it was a crack he heard and hoped it was scar tissue that caused the sensation. He found out later it was indeed a pop. This weekend he will travel to Alabama to have Tommy John Surgery that will be performed by Dr. James Andrews on Monday.

“I’ve never had any signals, pain in the UCL,” said Phelps. “I’ve never felt before what I felt Saturday. You are always hopeful when you go for a MRI but this time I kind of had a feeling something was wrong.”

Phelps saw his 2017 season come to an end when arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from the back of his elbow was required. He said that injury and the torn UCL were unrelated.

“I was healthy coming into camp and the stuff was there, we were waiting for it just to all line up,” he said. “The fear is always a piece of bone out of the back, there’s a little extra range of motion, but I have never had any UCL symptoms before.

“2-2 (count) to Chris Carter, I can’t just lay a fastball in there. I tried to step on it a little, but I didn’t throw it any different than I had thrown any fastball. It just wanted to go and it did.”

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Surgery and a year-plus recovery now awaits Phelps. While some players prefer to do their rehab away from the team, for Phelps it is important to stay in Seattle.

“I love the guys in there, I have some really good relationships,” he said. “And also, I trust the training staff here. It’s part of being a team and I also feel from being the present standpoint, I have a little bit more to offer than just what I do on the field. I have some really good relationships with some of the younger guys on the pitching staff. Whatever I can do to help out, I will do it.”

Part of the frustration for Phelps is that he wanted to be a part of a bullpen that he believed could be very good in 2018.

“We had a chance to be really special,” he said. “But you look at the spring Danny (Dan Altavilla) is having. He has got a really, really special arm. He has got a bright future. It’s a chance for someone to step up. We saw it happen with (Emilio) Pagan toward the end of the year last year. We pray that someone can take that leap and either continue on with what they have been doing or kind of kick-start their career.”

Both general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are glad to have Phelps stick around with the intention of helping. He is a leader in the pen and has been a leader of the team as well, taking on the role of players’ representative. It won’t be an easy journey. Days of painful rehab work will be long, the reward still far in the distance. There is the inevitable separation that comes with being present but not being able to contribute to wins on the field. Phelps sees it as just one year, however, and he is up for the challenge.

“The silver lining is after my rehab I will have a fully reconstructed elbow and God-willing the stuff will still be there and it is just a matter of getting back on the field.”

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Mariners’ David Phelps hopes to help in clubhouse during UCL recovery