Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray is out for the season with a flexor tendon injury

Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray is out for the season with a flexor tendon injury

Mariners fans riding the April Fool’s hog got an unpleasant return to reality today when the team announced that LHP Robbie Ray will undergo surgery on his flexor tendon and miss the rest of the season. While Ray was being evaluated to see if he could return to the throwing program, doctors discovered further damage to a separate area of ​​his flexor tendon and recommended surgery instead.

Flexor tendon strains often lead to Tommy John surgery, as noted in the original article about Ray’s injury. UCL reconstruction, or “Tommy John” or “TJ,” can keep a player on the shelf for anywhere from a year to 18 months. A torn flexor tendon, which Ray sustained, is a different injury, with a shorter recovery time: more like nine months, similar to what Matt Boyd suffered before coming to Seattle. During his career, the 31-year-old Ray has never spent significant time on the IL: He’s missed a few weeks here and there with a few injuries, suffered a concussion in 2017 and an oblique strain in 2018, but this is his first. . Time to work with significant hand injury.

This was a devastating blow to Ray and the Mariners, as Ray not only maintained a spot in the rotation but also served as a mentor to many of the team’s young pitchers, especially George Kirby, who was his spring training catching partner. Ray was instrumental in helping Kirby develop his new two-seamer; The two worked on a new splitter this spring.

With the Rays done for the season, the Mariners essentially have three options: 1) move Chris Flexon into the rotation permanently; 2) promoting a player from the minors to replace Ray; 3) Trade for another circulating part.

Currently, the team is going with the first option, with some fairly rough results, as the Mariners have lost every game Flaxen has started, though he allowed just one run in his first outing against Cleveland and just two runs against the Angels. Since then, however, it’s been a disappointing skid, starting with a blown lead against Chicago, followed by four runs against Milwaukee and six against St. Louis—his errorless streak.

Flexon doesn’t have options, but could be returned to a bullpen role if the team wants to get a look at another arm—consider a hybrid of the first two options. Bryce Miller, Emerson Hancock or Brian Woo, who are all at Double-A Arkansas, but none of them are ready for a big-league role yet. 2021 draftee Woo has perhaps the most promising strikeout stuff but the least polish of the three after missing significant time early in his big-league career with his own TJ surgery. He’s pitched all 12 innings in the high minors and is pitching in short, four-inning outings, so don’t expect to see him any time soon. Hancock, the team’s first-rounder in 2020, has spent the most time in Double-A, but has struggled with injuries and hasn’t missed a bat so far this year, though that has also come with an increase in his walks. Miller, a 2021 third-rounder, got the longest spring training appearance of the three and is likely the first of the group to get the nod, but his strikeouts have been few and far between this season so far and he’s coming off a recent outing where he was shelled by a Texas double. was – A team led by top prospect Evan Carter.

There are other internal options in Triple-A, though it would require a significant slowdown from Flexen to lose out to the likes of lefty Tommy Milone or Jose Rodriguez or Darren McCaughan, all of whom are best used as emergency spot starters or bullpen depth. Regular rotation pieces. RHP Taylor Dollard has been a hot name among Mariners prospect fans after dominating the Texas League last year, but he’s only pitched eight innings in Tacoma so far and has been brutalized by the longball—a 50% HR/FB rate! ERA/FIP is approaching double digits. One name to keep an eye on is Easton McGee, acquired from the Red Sox this off-season after being DFA’d by the Rays for cash, who used him as a bullpen arm. Seattle moved him back to his starter core and he made five solid starts for Tacoma, proving adept at limiting hard contact (his HR/FB rate is a full digit lower than Dollar’s, at just 5.3%) and hitting the zone well. Commanding. Outside of a rough opening weekend start where he allowed four runs in 4.1 innings against the Dodgers’ Triple-A team, he allowed just 1-2 earned runs per start while pitching at least five innings.

There is also the trade market, which is the most complex and expensive option of the three. It’s hard to find teams this early in the season that are willing to admit they’re throwing in the towel, and one of those teams is the Mariners. The Mariners’ main trade capital is in their young outfielders Taylor Trammell and Cade Marlowe, both of whom are returning from injuries that kept them out of spring training, and the same pitching prospects who could step into Flexen’s place somewhere if needed. down the line. While the trade market could open up further down the stretch this season, it’s hard to see that as an immediate option for the club.

What happens next depends largely on what Chris Flexon can do. In the case of this scenario the Mariners built pitching depth; Now, that depth will be tested early. Flexen is currently getting burned by the longball with a 20% HR/FB rate, which shows how poor his command in the zone is. If he can make just a couple of key adjustments to manage his hard contact and chew through a few innings until one of the pitching prospects is ready, the path forward is less bleak. If this is not, as Flexon said after his outing against the Cardinals, “rock bottom,” the Mariners will have to get creative to patch the Rays-shaped hole in their rotation.

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