SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Left-hander Will Smith, a key piece of a revamped bullpen, is leaning toward having Tommy John surgery, manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday night.
Bochy said surgery was the recommendation of both doctors who examined Smith's elbow this week. Smith will talk to his agent before coming to a final decision on Friday. The procedure would keep Smith out the entire 2017 season and likely would cause him to miss the start of the 2018 season.
Smith, 27, missed the first month of camp because of pain in his throwing elbow. He returned March 17, but during a March 20 outing he again felt pain and called for a trainer. A second round of diagnostics revealed a strain and a sprain in the elbow. Smith saw team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki in San Francisco and flew to Los Angeles this week to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlen-Jobe Clinic.
"They had the same opinion," Bochy said. "There is a tear there. You can try to rehab it and if that doesn't work you're behind a couple of months ... It's not a definite he's going to have it done, but two doctors are in agreement on what this is."
Smith was expected to serve as the late lefty for the Giants, getting setup work in the seventh and eighth innings. With Smith out, the Giants will lean on young lefties Steven Okert, Josh Osich and Ty Blach.
"We're going to have to have someone step up and help us in the seventh and eighth," Bochy said. "That was going to be will's role. He's a guy we were leaning on."
Smith was acquired from the Brewers at the deadline last season in exchange for right-hander Phil Bickford (who is currently serving a 50-game suspension) and catcher Andrew Susac (who is currently injured). After a shaky start, he finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances.
The Giants have for the most part avoided Tommy John for 40-man roster pitchers. Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and Josh Osich have all had it during their time in the organization, along with outfielder Mac Williamson. Prospect Ian Gardeck is currently recovering from Tommy John. The last Giants pitcher who was likely headed for the roster before having Tommy John was left-hander Eric Surkamp. He had surgery in 2012.
The timetable is different for every pitcher, but the general consensus is that the procedure sidelines a pitcher for at least a year, and usually closer to 16 months. Matt Moore, Thursday night’s starter, had Tommy John on April 23, 2014. He did not return to a big league mound until July 2, 2015, and even then, he was under restrictions.
Smith is under team control for two more seasons after this one.