In spring training, the Red Sox were relatively lucky with the injury bug, but they did get one major blow to their farm system early on in camp. That was with Bryan Mata, who entered camp as the consensus top pitcher in the organization. The righty was feeling some discomfort in his arm and they found a tear in his UCL. At the time, it wasn’t clear the road he’d take and they were hoping he’d be able to recover through rest and rehab. They’ve changed course, and announced on Wednesday that he has indeed undergone Tommy John surgery.
Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata underwent a successful Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache— Julian McWilliams (@byJulianMack) April 14, 2021
The rest and rehab approach is not one that never works, so this wasn’t an inevitability in the literal sense of the word. That said, I think this was the expectation from most and the Red Sox and Mata didn’t wait a ton of time to make the call. Generally, the timeline to recover from this surgery is anywhere from 12 to 18 months, and usually somewhere in the middle. That would put Mata on track to potentially start throwing in games again somewhere in the back half of next season. Of course, setbacks can change that timeline and sometimes pitchers to recover more quickly. But I’d set an early baseline around late July or early August.
That, of course, doesn’t mean he’ll be in the majors at that point. Mata has only 11 starts as high as Double-A, and even if he were completely healthy right now the expectation was for him to spend at least half the year at Triple-A before a call up would be considered. So now with this news, don’t expect to see him in the majors until 2023. For what it’s worth, that will still just be his age-24 season.
As for the role, I imagine they’ll continue to try him as a starter, but injuries have been a part of his career since turning pro and it has had some concerned he’ll have to shift to relief. Again, I don’t suspect they’ll go that route yet, nor do I think they should, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The hope, though, is that he can come back strong from this surgery and pick up where he left off, which many national rankers had as him being not too far outside the top 100. There are command issues here, but he’s improved on that as he’s gotten older and he has the arsenal and stuff to be an impact middle of the rotation starter. Now it’s just about seeing how he does in his long road back to the mound.