What has been a lost season for Mariners left-hander Drew Smyly just got worse.
Smyly is headed for reconstructive surgery on his elbow to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament — a procedure commonly known as Tommy John surgery. The typical recovery period is 12-to-15 months.
Dr. James Andrews, a long-time specialist in the procedure, will perform the surgery July 6 in Birmingham, Ala. Smyly will then do his post-op rehab work near his home in Dallas.
“I feel bad for Drew,” manager Scott Servais said. “I know how excited he was when we acquired him. The injury ... certainly he did everything he could to try to get back from it.”
The recovery time frame places Smyly’s long-term future with the Mariners in doubt. He is making $6.85 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration. Before the injury, he was tracking for free agency after the 2018 season.
Smyly, 28, opened the season on the disabled list after being diagnosed in late March with a flexor strain in his elbow, but he appeared to be making progress in his recovery.
After pitching a simulated inning last Saturday, he termed it “another good step.” Plans called for him to pitch two simulated innings Wednesday before starting a rehab assignment. Club officials targeted a return for July 17-19 in Houston.
But there were warning signs.
“Coming in after that (simulated game) he made mention to our trainers that he didn’t feel all that great,” Servais said. “I was (thinking), ‘Oh, typical soreness.’ Trying to stay positive. Then the doctors took some more looks at it.”
Now Smyly is unlikely to pitch before the 2019 season.
“Yeah, it hurts,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “I mean, he was going to be a big piece for us. I know there were some encouraging steps when he threw a couple of side sessions, so you were hoping it was going in the right direction.”
The Mariners acquired Smyly from Tampa Bay in a Jan. 11 trade for outfielder Mallex Smith, shortstop Carlos Vargas and pitcher Ryan Yarbrough. At the time, general manager Jerry Dipoto characterized Smyly as a “great fit.”
Dipoto said he spent more time in efforts to acquire Smyly “than any other thing we’ve done” in a busy offseason.
“He fits our ballpark well,” Dipoto said “He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher with low walks and high strikeouts who, in our ballpark with improved defense, fits us like a glove.
“If as we expect, he shows up and does his thing, it should fit very well for us.”
That never happened.
Smyly made two scoreless spring starts before joining the United States in the World Baseball Classic. He made just one appearance, when he permitted one unearned run over 4 2/3 innings on March 15 in a start against Venezuela.
When Smyly returned to spring camp, coincidence or not, he wasn’t the same pitcher. He gave up three homers to Cincinnati in his next spring start and, shortly thereafter, landed on the disabled list.
Smyly is 31-27 with a 3.74 ERA in five seasons with Detroit (2012-14) and Tampa Bay (2014-16).
The Tigers picked him in the second round the 2010 draft but traded to the Rays on July 31, 2014, as part of the deal that returned lefty David Price.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners