Minnesota Twins right-hander Tyler Mahle will have Tommy John surgery, manager Rocco Baldelli announced Thursday. Mahle exited his April 26 start against the Kansas City Royals with elbow soreness and afterward he said he left the game as a precaution, and he called the injury "just inflammation," per MLB.com.
"He's had multiple opinions," Baldelli said (per the Star Tribune). "There was a decision to be made based on the status of how the ligament is doing, if it was a situation where it was an absolute no-brainer that he had to get it done. This was on the table and something that needed to be considered and there was a rehab possibility ... He sat down, thought about it, and the decision was made to have the surgery."
Tommy John surgery comes with a 14-18 month rehab these days. Mahle will miss the rest of this season and the best case scenario has him returning around next year's All-Star break. The injury comes at a terrible time for Mahle, who will be a free agent after the season. He'll likely have to settle for a short-term "rehab and prove yourself" contract this winter.
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at last summer's trade deadline, Mahle missed much of the second half last year with shoulder trouble. He has made nine starts with a 3.64 ERA since the trade. Minnesota sent three prospects, including big-league infielder Spencer Steer and minor-league masher Christian Encarnacion-Strand, to the Reds in the trade.
The rotation and pitching staff in general has been the unquestioned strength of the Twins this season. They are averaging 3.65 runs allowed per game, second lowest in baseball, though they also rank 22nd with an average of only 4.24 runs scored per game. Minnesota's rotation depth chart currently looks like this:
- RHP Sonny Gray
- RHP Pablo López
- RHP Joe Ryan
RHP Kenta Maeda(on injured list with strained triceps, expected to miss several more weeks) RHP Tyler Mahle(Tommy John surgery) RHP Chris Paddack(Tommy John surgery, could return in second half)
- RHP Bailey Ober
- RHP Louie Varland
- RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (currently in Triple-A)
Varland was called up to replace Mahle earlier this month and he was terrific against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, holding their star-laden lineup to one run in six innings. The 25-year-old has made eight spots starts the last two seasons and Mahle's injury opens the door for Varland to hold down a full-time rotation spot.
From 2020-22, Mahle pitched to a 3.95 ERA in 348 1/3 innings, though the underlying traits on his arsenal hinted at the potential for much more. He has long been a stathead favorite for that team. The Twins appear to have the rotation depth to withstand Mahle's loss, but no doubt about it, it is a blow to a team built on run prevention.
The Twins currently sit atop the AL Central at 20-17 with a plus-22 run differential. They are the only team in the division with a winning record and a positive run differential.