Former Cy Young winner is completed for the season. Where might sailors look next?
Mariners fans got an aprilnyk pig an unpleasant return to reality today when the team announced that LHP Robbie Ray would have surgery on his flexor tendon and miss the rest of the season. While evaluating Ray to see if he could return to the throwing program, doctors instead discovered more damage in a different area of the flexor tendon and recommended surgery.
Flexor tendon strain often leads to Tommy John surgery, as mentioned in the original article about Ray’s injury. A UCL, “Tommy John” or “TJ” rebuild can keep a player on the shelf for anywhere from a year to 18 months. A torn flexor tendon, which is what Ray suffered from, is a different injury, with a shorter recovery period: more than nine months, Similar to Matt Boyd injury before coming to Seattle. During his career, Ray, 31, hasn’t spent much time at IL: He’s missed two weeks here and there with minor injuries, suffered a concussion in 2017 and suffered an oblique strain in 2018, but this is his first time dealing with Major arm injury.
It’s a terrible blow for Ray and the Mariners, as Ray not only kept a spot in the rotation, but also served as a mentor figure to several of the team’s young pitchers, specifically George Kirby, who was his partner in spring training. Ray was instrumental in helping Kirby develop his new two-piece stitching; The two worked on a new splitter this spring.
With Ray working for the season, the Mariners have three options: 1) move Chris Flexen into the rotation permanently; 2) Promote a player from the palace to replace Ray. 3) Trade in another piece.
Currently, the team is rolling with the first option, with some fairly rough results. The Mariners have lost every game Flexen has started, even though he gave up only one run in his first game against Cleveland and only two against the Angels. Since then, however, the slide has been dismal, beginning with a blowout lead against Chicago, followed by giving up four runs against Milwaukee and six runs not entirely his fault against St. Louis.
Flexen has no options, but can be moved back into the hitting role if the team wants to look at another arm – keep in mind it’s a combination of the first two. The hot names here would be Bryce Miller, Emerson Hancock, or Brian Waugh, all of whom are at Double-A Arkansas, but none of whom are ready to play big in the league just yet. Woo, a 2021 draftee, is perhaps the most promising but least polished of the three after losing significant time in his early big-league career with his TJ surgery. He’s pitched in all 12 innings pitched in the high minors and has been striking out innings four shorter innings, so don’t expect to see him anytime soon. Hancock, the team’s first baseman in 2020, has the most time in a Double-A, but has struggled with injuries of his own and hasn’t been able to miss a bat until this year, though that also comes with an increase in his career batting average. 2021’s third-place Miller has had the longest spring training appearance of the three and is likely the first in this group to get a nod, but so far his hitting level has dropped this season, and he’s recently come off a outing where he’s been bombed by a team dual texas. A team led by Senior Detective Evan Carter.
There are other indoor options in Triple-A, though it would take a major Flexen collapse to knock out the likes of Tommy Milone, José Rodríguez or Darren McCaughan, all of whom are better used for emergency starters or depth of the bullpen than regular turnover chops. RHP Taylor Dollard has been a hot name among amateur Mariners prospects after dominating the Texas League last year, but he’s only had eight innings so far in Tacoma and has been brutalized by the long ball – with a 50% HR/FB rate! ERA/FIP is close to double digits. One name to watch is Easton McGee, which has been sourced from red socks For cash this off-season after being awarded a DFA by the Rays, who used him as a lever. Seattle brought him back to his starting roots, and he made five solid starts for Tacoma, proving adept at curbing hard contact (his HR/FB rate is a whole number lower than Dollard’s, at just 5.3%) and leading the area well. Outside of a rough opening weekend start in which he allowed four runs to DodgersA Triple-A team over 4.1 innings, he has only allowed one or two runs in each start after that while pitching at least five innings.
There is also the commercial market, which is the most complex and expensive of the three options. Early in the season, it’s hard to find teams willing to admit they’re throwing in the towel, and one of those teams plays in the Mariners division. The Mariners’ main trading capital is in their junior players Taylor Trammell and Kid Marlowe, both of whom are back from injuries that kept them out of spring training, and the same prospects who might be able to step in for Flexen if needed somewhere down the line. While the commercial market may open up more this season, it’s hard to see that as an immediate option for the club.
What happens next depends largely on what Chris Flexen can do. Sailors built the depth of the blade in case this scenario occurred; Now, that depth will be tested early. Flaxen is currently being burned by his long ball, at 20% HR/FB, which is an offshoot of how poor his drive in the area is. If he can make a few major adjustments to manage his difficult connection and chew on a few roles until one of the show’s prospects is ready, the path forward will be a lot less murky. If it’s not, as Flexen put it after his out in front of the Cardinals, “rock bottom,” the Mariners will have to get creative with patching the ray-shaped hole in their turnover.
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