Tigers' Casey Mize, 2018 top pick, to undergo Tommy John surgery

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Alex Faedo heard his phone chirping Friday morning. It was Casey Mize and the news was heartbreaking. 

As Tigers manager AJ Hinch announced before the game, Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

"I feel like it's a long road and you don't want to see anyone go through that," said Faedo, who traveled that long post-surgery road the last two years before finally coming back this spring. "But I know Casey will be better for it. Just his attention to detail, the way he works each and every day. He was already asking for things like what devices could he buy, what other things can he do.

"He's got such a good head on his shoulders. It will take a while, but he'll be better and he'll be stronger and he'll be wiser. And his arm and body will feel good. He will be in a good spot when he gets back."

Faedo had his Tommy John surgery in December of 2020. He threw to hitters live again for the first time this spring. The typical timeline for pitchers to return from this surgery is 12 to 18 months.

“I’m very sad for Casey and for all the work he’s put in,” Hinch said. “But I think having resolution to this is the No. 1 key. He knows the problem and he knows the answer. He knows what the road ahead will be like and he knows the success stories from this surgery.

"He’s very OK with knowing that these are the facts, this is what I have to do.”

Casey Mize has been out since April 18, and now could miss 12 to 18 months after Tommy John surgery.

The decision to have surgery came after Mize saw specialist Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. Even though, as all the previous tests had shown, the ligament wasn’t torn.

“Dr. Meister determined that it was a stretched ligament that had lost its elasticity and functionality inside the elbow," Hinch said. "Every exam we had showed an intact ligament, which was true.”

Meister used a stress MRI, which examined the elbow from a different angle and saw the ligament had stretched beyond the point of healing. 

“Unfortunately, in our league, Tommy John surgery, while it hasn’t been a shrug-your-shoulders moment, it's a step that many pitchers have had to take,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen a lot of success stories at the back end.

“Casey is disappointed that he’s going to miss a significant amount of time — he already has. But I think he’s resolved to the fact that this is necessary to take the next step in his career.”

Mize has been out since April 15 and twice had his throwing program shut down because of recurring symptoms. But at no point did tests reveal a torn ligament. 

“The first step is finding an accurate diagnosis," Hinch said. "I'm not a doctor, but you are looking at these exams and I know they're looking for tears or blood or other issues that stand out. We can't be inside the elbow."

When the initial reports came back that the ligament was intact, Hinch said, there was a sense that this wouldn't be a major issue. But the discomfort and pain persisted. 

"I've learned more about this in my days as a manager than ever prior and I know it takes time to differentiate between inflammation and injury and to see how the symptoms are.

"I've also heard of guys who had 50-percent tears who still pitched in the big leagues, I don't think any of this is an exact science. You don't want to race to the surgery table despite how successful it's been."

No surgery date has been set yet for Mize.

"We'll all be there for Casey," Hinch said. "And we know he'll be better on the other side and that this is a necessary step to get there."

When Faedo was going through his rehabilitation, he leaned on Tigers' lefty Joey Wentz for support and counsel. Faedo plans to pay it forward to Mize.

"I'm going to try my best to help as much as I can," he said. "Just like how Joey was toward me. I know how that process is and I will reach out and help as much as I can. I want Casey to come back better than before."


Twitter: @cmccosky