The Mariners rotation just took a major body blow before the season even began.
#Mariners LHP Drew Smyly has a flexor strain. Tentative recovery is 6-8 weeks. No surgery currently anticipated.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) March 31, 2017
Cool cool cool. Drew Smyly was the acquisition that signaled for many a shift in the Mariners from fringy contenders to Wild Card favorites. With his return expected in June, they’ll have to rely on their considerable but lightly proven pitching depth. Ariel Miranda will get first crack in the rotation, reportedly, and will start the fourth game of the season in Houston. The choice to continue stretching him out as a starter will now come in handy, albeit sooner than anyone would have liked. According to a doctor from Rice University, flexor bundle strains are an elbow injury that develop due to overexertion over time, which makes it equally plausible that this was exacerbated by Smyly’s WBC start, or that he simply would have developed this later on regardless. It’s tough to say. On the somewhat positive side, flexor bundle strains supposedly respond well to rest and rehab. Less cheerily, a similar injury, albeit more serious, ended Adrian Sampson’s season last year, did similarly to Roenis Elias, and contributed to Homer Bailey’s struggles recently. This is trouble, pure and simple.
A small solace is the improvement a few Mariners pitchers have shown this spring in average velocity.
Among Mariners starters with at least 10 IP this spring, Dillon Overton has added the most velocity to his fastball. Sneaky upside here. pic.twitter.com/MItF17Wxgr— Jake Mailhot (@jakemailhot) March 31, 2017
Still, this is a potentially huge blow. Smyly’s no world-beater, but his baseline is competency in a rotation that has a wide range of outcomes. Smyly should open the season on the 60-day DL, retroactive to sometime roughly a week ago, which will open a 40-man spot and likely get Jerry’s wheels spinning (though Miranda, Dillon Overton, and Chris Heston are all already on it). If his rehab and healing goes according to schedule, this injury will impact ~10 games. That’s a storm that can be weathered with an offense and defense this talented, but the margin for error just got much thinner.