diamondbacks lefty Caleb Smith has been diagnosed with torn ligaments in his left elbow, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. However, after receiving multiple opinions about the injury, he will first opt for a rest and rehab approach rather than immediately undergoing Tommy John surgery, general manager Mike Hazen tells Piecoro. The team has not provided a timetable for Smith’s possible recovery.
As with any strain, the possibility of eventual surgery will remain as Smith works through the rehab process. However, given the timing of the injury (Smith pitched in the D-backs’ final game of the season but left with a coach) he would have been in line to miss the entire 2023 campaign even if he had surgery. immediately. . If the tear is minor enough that doctors feel he has a chance of being cured without surgery, there’s little reason why he shouldn’t try the rehab route before going under the knife. That at least leaves the door open for him to pitch in 2023, and if he has surgery in a couple of months anyway, he’d still be on track to return in early 2024.
Regardless of whether he eventually requires surgery or is successful in rehabbing the tear, it’s entirely possible the ligament issue will end Smith’s tenure in the Diamondbacks organization. The 31-year-old southpaw is eligible for arbitration for the third and final time this winter, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects that he will receive a raise from $2 million to $2.7 million. With the specter of major surgery looming at worst and a presumably months-long rehab process on the docket, even at best, Smith makes an even clearer non-sensitive candidate than he thinks. he already was.
Smith has had ups and downs in Arizona, splitting his time between the bullpen and the rotation with some promising streaks but an overall lack of consistency. He seemed like a viable trade candidate for the D-backs in early summer 2021, pitching a 3.08 ERA with a 26.9% strikeout rate (albeit against an inflated 11.6% walk rate) in 64 1/3 innings. Smith, however, exploded for an ERA in excess of 12.00 in his next six starts, causing him to lose the spot in the rotation he had held in early June.
A strong finish out of the bullpen in 2021 (2.70 ERA in 26 2/3 innings) kept Smith in the team’s plans and set the stage for him to fill a full-time bullpen role in 2022. It gave the Snakes 70 innings of 4.11 ERA ball last season, but he did so with the worst strikeout and walk rates all season of his career (21.5% and 12.9%). Since his move to the bullpen in August 2021, Smith has a solid 3.72 ERA but lackluster marks in strikeout rate (21.5%), walk rate (12%), ground ball rate (30.6%), home runs per nine innings ( 1.68), FIP (5.28) and SIERA (4.60).