Detroit Tigers righthander Casey Mize will undergo Tommy John surgery, manager AJ Hinch said Friday afternoon, to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.
He will miss the rest of the 2022 season.
dr. Keith Meister, the Texas Rangers team physician, determined that Mize needed elbow surgery. The procedure will take place “quite soon,” Hinch said, but the exact date is unclear. The recovery process usually takes 12-18 months, meaning it is unlikely that Mize will return to the Tigers until 2024.
“He still doesn’t have a torn ligament,” Hinch said. “Dr. Meister diagnosed him with a stretched ligament that has lost its elasticity and functionality in his elbow. Each of the studies we’ve had showed an intact ligament, which is true. But the symptoms keep coming back. “
Mize, the No. 1 overall pick of 2018, has not pitched for the Tigers against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium since April 14. The 25-year-old ended up on the injured list on April 15 with a sprained right elbow.
MLB executives on the hot seat:Impatience and incompetence make a tough job even harder to survive
‘Perfectly imperfect’:This is why players come to the defense of MLB referees
Sign up for our sports newsletter:All the sports news you need to know is delivered right to you!
Initially, the Tigers believed that Mize had avoided a significant injury.
“When they told us the ligament was intact, that gave us a lot of confidence that there wouldn’t be a major problem,” Hinch said. “The fact that it’s intact, but still needs surgery, is part of the medical side that I have no idea about. But it’s the reality.”
Mize started two throwing programs in hopes of a non-surgical recovery.
Both times, however, he was shut down due to pain.
The Tigers first stopped its pitching program after starting on May 12 with Triple-A Toledo in which Mize gave up three runs and was unable to finish the first inning. His pitching schedule was halted again this week due to a setback when he tried to fly out from 90 feet on flat ground.
“I don’t think this is an exact science,” Hinch said. “You don’t want to run to the operating table, no matter how successful it has been. The lost time is sometimes needed for recovery, but sometimes for diagnosis.”
Mize has pitched 39 games for the Tigers in parts of three seasons, making his MLB debut in August 2020. He led the team with 30 starts and 150⅓ innings last season, with a 3.71 ERA.
This season, Mize posted a 5.40 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts in 10 innings in two starts.
Hinch spoke to Mize on the phone Thursday night.
“The solution to this is the No. 1 key,” Hinch said. “He knows the problem. He knows the answer. He knows the way ahead of us… …I know he will be a diligent patient. I know he will do whatever is asked of him to rehabilitate and return to because we are the pitcher that we know is moving forward.”
Most recently, Tigers righthander Spencer Turnbull underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2021. He is on track to return in September 2022. Also right-wing Alex Faedo – one of Mize’s close friends – had surgery in December 2020 and returned to competitions in March 2022.
Faedo was called up to his MLB debut last month, leading to a successful start to his major league career. He has a 2.92 ERA, walks 11 and strikeouts 28 in 37 innings over seven starts.
“I’ve had a number of pitchers in my managerial career that’s had it, whether it’s Justin Verlander or Lance McCullers Jr.,” Hinch said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of names you can say, especially Michael Fulmer, who is also one of those people who can give advice during the pre- and post-operative days.”
Fulmer underwent elbow surgery in the spring of 2019 after a knee injury that ended his 2018 season. He returned to the mound with the Tigers in July 2020, although the team kept him on a strict innings limit, with all 10 of his starts that season on three innings or less.
He was given the green light for longer stints in 2021, although he was soon moved to the bullpen, where he has found success. After an average speed of 95.8 mph on his fastball during the 2017-18 seasons, his speed dropped to 93.1 mph during the 2020 60 game season. Last season, in which he made 52 appearances (69⅔ innings), his average fastball back at 95.3 mph.
The added speed made a big difference to Fulmer’s confidence and his success from the bullpen last season.
“Last year I didn’t manage to throw at 92-93 (mph) because that was all I had at the time, because I really never had to do that before,” Fulmer said in May 2021. “I think so If the speed was still as low as last year, would I have understood? Absolutely. But it’s a lot easier when I can trust myself, trust my body and let everything go.”
Verlander is a more recent Tommy John success story, although his rehab took longer. He was injured in July 2020 when he pitched six innings in the Houston Astros season opener. He missed the rest of that season and was sidelined throughout 2021. This season, however, the 39-year-old appears to be back in shape, with a 2.11 ERA, striking out 73 and walking 14 in 71⅔ innings (in 11 starts). His fastball, which averaged 94.9 mph in 2020, is at 94.8 mph this season.
Contact Evan Petzold at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold†