Springs to undergo Tommy John surgery

April 22nd, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays starter will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will sideline the left-hander for the rest of the year and into the 2024 season.

After being evaluated by team physician Dr. Koco Eaton and receiving a second opinion from Dr. Keith Meister on Tuesday, Springs was placed on the 15-day injured list Tuesday afternoon with a left elbow flexor strain. Springs was transferred to the 60-day IL on Saturday, and manager Kevin Cash announced the left-hander will undergo surgery on Monday.

“Devastating,” Springs said Saturday afternoon. “It sucks. It really does. It's kind of hard to believe my season's already over, but there's nothing I can do about it.”

Springs exited his start against the Red Sox on April 13 after just three innings due to what the club initially announced as ulnar neuritis in his left arm. The Rays did not place him on the injured list until Tuesday, which allowed them to recall top prospect Taj Bradley from Triple-A Durham to start Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Wanting to keep his mind from wandering to the “worst-case scenario,” Springs had been optimistic the injury would just be a nerve issue. He said he didn’t feel anything pop in his elbow on the mound, just numbness shooting down his left forearm and into his fingers after a warmup pitch.

But an MRI revealed what Springs called “a significant tear” in his ulnar collateral ligament, and Dr. Meister recommended surgery. Springs admitted Saturday he was still trying to process the bitterly disappointing news.

“The biggest thing is I feel like I let my teammates down, not being out there,” he said. “I know injuries happen, but I want to be out there and pitch. Everything, the money and finances and all that, is kind of secondary to me. I want to compete and play.”

Springs had emerged over the last year as one of the Majors’ most effective starters, and another tough break for Tampa Bay on the injury front. Top starter (strained left oblique) has not pitched this season and likely won’t join the rotation until May.  Young starter had Tommy John surgery in September and won’t pitch this year.

Now, they’ll be without Springs all season. The typical timeframe to return from Tommy John surgery is 12 to 15 months, which would get Springs back in the mix for the Rays late next April at the earliest.

Acquired from Boston in a February 2021 trade, Springs first established himself as a valuable reliever for Tampa Bay before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee that August. He was back in the bullpen to begin last season, then the Rays moved him into their injury-depleted rotation.

Springs thrived as a starter, posting a 2.65 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings over 24 starts after May 9. The Rays rewarded him for his performance, and bet on him repeating it, by signing him to a four-year, $31 million contract extension that could pay him up to $65.75 million over the next five seasons.

Springs had his elbow examined before signing that deal in January, and that MRI came back clean. He got off to an excellent start to this year, throwing 14 shutout innings during Spring Training then working 13 scoreless innings with 19 strikeouts over his first two outings in the regular season.

“Injury sucks, regardless of what it is. And Springs is, A, such a good human being, but, B, he’s a big part of this team,” starter said. “So to lose a guy like that, it’s tough. You just look at what we’ve gone through the last couple years as a starting staff and the arms we’ve lost, it is definitely tough.

“But this organization has done such a great job of developing talent and stockpiling as many quality arms as possible, so we have depth. We have the ability to weather the storm a little bit.”