Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize will undergo Tommy John surgery, manager AJ Hinch said Friday afternoon, to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.
He will miss the rest of the 2022 season.
Dr. Keith Meister, a team physician for the Texas Rangers, determined that Mize needed elbow surgery. The procedure will happen “very soon,” Hinch said, but the exact date is unclear. The recovery process typically takes 12 to 18 months, meaning Mize is unlikely to return to the Tigers until 2024.
“He doesn’t have a torn ligament yet,” Hinch said. “Dr. Meister diagnosed him with a stretched ligament that has lost its elasticity and functionality within his elbow. Any of the tests we’ve had have shown an intact ligament, which is true. But the symptoms keep coming back.”
Mize, the 2018 first overall pick, hasn’t pitched for the Tigers since April 14 against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The 25-year-old went on the disabled list on April 15 with a sprained right elbow.
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At first, the Tigers believed that Mize was avoiding a major injury.
“When they told us the ligament was intact, it gave us great confidence that there wasn’t going to be a big problem,” Hinch said. “The fact that he’s intact but still needs surgery is part of the medical aspect that I have no idea about. But it’s the reality.”
Mize started two release programs in hopes of a non-surgical recovery.
Both times, however, it closed due to pain.
The Tigers stopped their pitching program for the first time after a May 12 start with Triple-A Toledo, in which Mize allowed three runs and failed to complete the first inning. His throwing schedule was halted again this week due to a setback when he attempted to catch from 90 feet on flat ground.
“I don’t think any of this is rocket science,” Hinch said. “You don’t want to rush to the operating table, as successful as it has been. Time lost is sometimes needed for recovery, but sometimes it’s needed 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 pitched last season, posting a 3.71 ERA.
This season, Mize posted a 5.40 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts in 10 innings over two starts.
Hinch spoke with Mize by phone Thursday night.
“Resolution for this is key number one,” Hinch said. “He knows the problem. He knows the answer. He knows the road ahead … I know he’s going to be a diligent patient. I know he’s going to do whatever is asked of him to rehabilitate this and get back to being the pitcher we know he’s going to be.” go ahead”.
Most recently, Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull had Tommy John surgery in July 2021. He is on track to return in September 2022. Also, right-hander Alex Faedo, one of Mize’s close friends, joined he underwent the surgery in December 2020 and returned to games in March 2022.
Faedo was called up for his MLB debut last month, leading to a successful start to his major league career. He has a 2.92 ERA, 11 walks and 28 strikeouts in 37 innings through seven starts.
“I’ve had multiple pitchers in my managerial career that have, whether it’s Justin Verlander or Lance McCullers Jr.,” Hinch said. “Unfortunately, you can mention a lot of names. Certainly Michael Fulmer is another one who can give some advice during the days before and after surgery.”
Fulmer underwent elbow surgery in the spring of 2019, following a knee injury that ended his 2018 season. He returned to the mound with the Tigers in July 2020, though the team kept him on a strict cap. innings, with all 10 of his starts that season going in three innings or fewer.
He was given the green light for longer stints in 2021, though he was soon moved to the bullpen, where he has found success. After averaging 95.8 mph on his fastball during the 2017-18 seasons, his speed dropped to 93.1 mph during the 60-game 2020 season. Last season, in which he made 52 appearances (69⅔ innings), his average fastball was back to 95.3 mph.
The extra speed made a big difference in Fulmer’s confidence and success out of the bullpen last season.
“Last year, trying to throw 92-93 (mph) because that was all I had at the time didn’t work out well, because I never really had to do that before,” Fulmer said in May 2021. “I think If the speed was still as low as it was last year, would I have noticed? Absolutely. But it’s so much easier when I can trust myself, trust my body and let go of everything.”
Verlander is a more recent Tommy John success story, though his rehabilitation took longer. He was injured in July 2020 while pitching six innings in the Houston Astros’ season opener. He missed the rest of that season and was out all of 2021. This season, however, the 39-year-old appears to be back in form, posting a 2.11 ERA, 73 strikeouts and 14 walks 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.