Carson Smith is out for the year, the slinging right-hander needs Tommy John surgery.
The Boston Red Sox received the worst news you can hear about any pitcher. Carson Smith needs Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow and will be out the rest of this season and likely half of 2017. This was not what this injury seemed to be in Spring Training.
In March, when the arm injury was first diagnosed, it was called flexor tendonitis in the forearm. It seemed that Smith was back to his 2015 form (2.34 ERA, 92 strikeouts in 70 innings) when he came back to the team on May 3 and threw a scoreless inning in Chicago.
The natural progression would be to increase the workload and then start using him on back-to-back days. When it was six days before his next appearance, then another five before his third appearance, a possible recurrence of the injury seemed very possible. When Smith went back on the disabled list on May 20, it did not appear he would need surgery.
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The Red Sox should be able to survive this hit. Even with Smith only giving the Red Sox 2.2 innings this season, the bullpen ranks eighth in the majors with a 3.12 ERA. Only Koji Uehara has a relief ERA over three in at least 10 innings (3.79). Heath Hembree (2.16), Junichi Tazawa (1.53) and Matt Barnes (2.95) have all excelled protecting leads from the sixth inning on with their power arms. Barnes is routinely hitting 98 on the radar gun. Craig Kimbrel at the end of the bullpen has saved his last seven games, allowing one hit and striking out 15 in ten innings.
While this is a blow to the Red Sox and their postseason chances, Smith’s injury issues up to this point have allowed previously untested pitchers like Hembree and Barnes step up and be trusted members of the bullpen so the big guns like Tazawa and Uehara don’t get overworked as they have in previous years. It hurts to think of how good they could have been with Smith back there twirling his magic, but the bullpen seems well-positioned to keep performing at a high level to enable the team to stay in the playoff hunt and go on another championship run.
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