ST. PETERSBURG — Top starter Tyler Glasnow had hoped months of rest and rehab of the partially torn ligament in his right elbow would allow him to return in September and pitch for the Rays in the playoffs.
But when he got to the point of testing the elbow by throwing off a mound Friday for the first time, it took only about six pitches for him to realize that there was too much pain for that to work, that he was not confident he could pitch comfortably in a game setting.
Instead, Glasnow is now expecting to have Tommy John elbow surgery, which likely will sideline him until 2023.
“Throwing off the mound and kind of feeling that pain, it was very apparent that it was probably time to get it done,” he said Saturday.
An official decision will be made Tuesday in a meeting with Dr. Keith Meister in Texas. Glasnow said Saturday that he is expecting the recommendation for the surgery and actually is embracing the idea, as he has pitched with pain in the elbow since 2019.
“It’s just something that probably has to be done,” Glasnow said. “I’m really, honestly excited to finally pitch on a mound pain-free, and that hasn’t really been the case for a while. So I think (with) what I’ve been able to do while feeling this pain, I’m just excited to see what it’s going to be like to pitch pain-free. And how much better I’ll be able to pitch.”
When healthy, Glasnow, 27, has been pretty good since being acquired from Pittsburgh in July 2018. His 2019 season was interrupted by an elbow issue that now seems to be the start of the current problem, finishing 6-1 with a 1.78 earned-run average. In the abbreviated 2020 season, he was 5-1, 4.08.
Glasnow made 14 starts this year, going 5-2, 2.66, walking off the mound after the fourth inning during a June 14 game against the White Sox in Chicago.
He complained at the time, somewhat emphatically, that the injury stemmed from having to change his grip due to adjusting to new rules prohibiting the use of foreign substances on the ball.
But he backed off that Saturday, saying it might have been a small factor.
“It was frustrating in the sense of maybe just making that change,” he said. “But it’s definitely not, like, associated with that. I’m tall — 6-8 — and I’ve had a problem with this for a little bit, but I just think the abrupt change might have just maybe made it happen a little bit quicker. But again, it’s not their fault.”
There is a possibility that Meister will recommend a less-invasive procedure or repair, or even want to try more rest and recovery since Glasnow is most likely to miss all of 2022 anyway if he has the surgery.
Manager Kevin Cash said he has assumed Glasnow was likely headed to surgery but also knew how badly the right-hander wanted to come back and would exhaust every option.
“I think there’s still more to be determined,” Cash said. “He’s got to talk to the doctor, or doctors, and then they’ll go from what the best course of action is. But I think it’s very fair that (Tommy John surgery) is where it’s heading.”
Though there is the possibility for Glasnow to return in September, Rays officials said they went into the trade deadline with the assumption that he wasn’t coming back and that if he did, it would be a bonus. In that situation, their strategy on seeking to acquire a starting pitcher would not have changed.
Glasnow said during a media conference call Saturday that if he got the surgery, there was a chance he could return by the end of the season. More likely, he would be out until the 2023 season, which is his last season under Rays control before he becomes a free agent.
“I’m not in any position to try to rush it,” Glasnow said. “I just want to make sure I feel good. I’m just really excited to be able to pitch pain-free. It’s frustrating, but the long-term investment of doing this, I just think it’s going to be really beneficial to me to come back strong, healthy and pain-free in 2023.”
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