In looking for reasons that this season could, and really should, be different than last, one of the big ones is with the pitching depth. And even beyond there just being more reliable depth, there is also more upside with the depth given the prospects that look to be ready to contribute at some point in 2021. One of those pitchers has been thought to be Bryan Mata, who most view as the top pitching prospect in the organization. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old had some arm troubles early in camp and underwent an MRI. We learned Saturday morning that the MRI revealed a slight tear in his UCL.
Bryan Mata has a slight UCL tear. #RedSox are trying treatment as opposed to surgery at this stage— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 6, 2021
Right now we don’t have a whole lot of information beyond the diagnosis, but it’s certainly always troubling to see “UCL tear” for a top pitching prospect in an organization. The good news is that the Red Sox don’t see surgery as a necessary option at this point. We all know that these things don’t always work out and surgery can often end up being the only option down the road — Jay Groome is a recent example of this — but at the same time it makes sense to try treatment over surgery.
It’s always easy to say someone should just go under the knife right away, but when you’re a top prospect on the cusp of making the majors for the first time, it’s completely understandable to want to avoid that long of a rehab process. The doctors seem to think this is a method that can work — and it has worked for pitchers before, including but not limited to Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched for years under the assumption he’d eventually need surgery but never did — and there’s little reason not to trust the medical staff here.
This is a situation we’ll be monitoring for the next few months, though. In terms of its effects on the roster, Mata was part of the rotation depth picture, but that was likely more of a second half consideration than a short-term one. So for the short-term, the depth remains largely the same, with guys like Tanner Houck, Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock and Connor Seabold figuring to be waiting in the wings in case of early injuries or underperformance from the Opening Day five.