DETROIT — Matthew Boyd, facing an uncertain future with the Tigers, has reached some long-awaited clarity on his health. The left-hander will undergo surgery next week to repair the flexor tendon in his left elbow.
Neither Boyd nor the Tigers discussed a timetable for his return, other than to say it’s better than the timetable for Tommy John surgery, which reconstructs a ligament in the elbow.
Pitchers who have undergone flexor tendon surgery have had widely varying timetables before returning, some due to other injuries, but a typical timetable is around 6-9 months. For example, Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas had the surgery last July and was pronounced as fully ready for the start of Spring Training, though he ended up being sidelined with shoulder issues and didn’t pitch until May.
“We’ll let him have surgery and see what the doctors give him at the end,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Obviously this is not a surgery that is expected to have him out all next season. That’s the initial news from the doctors, but at this point, it’s impossible to predict what that means until they actually get in and repair what the issue is.”
The decision, reached by Boyd after consultation with multiple orthopedic surgeons and specialists, provides a path forward from elbow issues that thwarted what had been an encouraging turnaround season for the 30-year-old in a critical year for his career.
A year after leading the league with seven losses, 45 earned runs allowed and 15 homers to go with a 6.71 ERA in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Boyd was a much-improved pitcher early in the year. He had a 3.44 ERA and 3.74 FIP through 13 starts, including just six home runs over 70 2/3 innings, when forearm issues forced him out of his June 14 start at Kansas City.
What was hoped to be a brief injured-list stint and a potential return around the All-Star break ended up being a longer, slower rehab process. Boyd returned at the end of August for a pair of four-inning starts before the elbow discomfort returned.
A series of visits followed with specialists, one with Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas and two with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
“I just kind of had an open mind with it,” Boyd said. “Judging off of guys that have had their ligament repaired or had a reconstruction, I didn’t really have any similarities to that. What I experienced was something that kind of on-and-off bothered me. So I’m just excited to put it behind me.”
What that means for his contractual future remains to be seen. Boyd is eligible for arbitration for a fourth time this coming winter. He and the Tigers avoided arbitration with a $6.5 million contract last January. He could become a free agent if the Tigers decide not to tender him a contract.
The latter scenario seemed likely if Boyd needed Tommy John surgery. The likelihood of him pitching again next year, possibly early in the season, creates an entirely different scenario.
“There’s a potential deal to be made,” general manager Al Avila said, “but I’m not really prepared to speak about that right now. I’m not really making a 100 percent commitment at this point either. So we will reassess that and discuss it in the offseason.”
Tigers open to re-signing Peralta
With Boyd likely out for at least the start of next season and Spencer Turnbull out for most or all of 2022, the only Tigers starters guaranteed to be back and ready for the start of next season are current rookies Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. The Tigers were already expected to explore the pitching market for additions, but retaining Wily Peralta looks increasingly like an option.
The 32-year-old Peralta signed a Minor League deal around the start of Spring Training as a depth option. His success this year, including a 4-3 record and 3.04 ERA, will likely attract a lot more interest on the free-agent market from teams this offseason — unless the Tigers move sooner to retain him.
“Certainly he’s earned a lot of respect around here, how he’s logged some innings in the absence of Spencer and Matthew and others,” Hinch said. “In time, we’ll have to address all these things. …
“He’s certainly somebody that we want to at least talk to and see where his priorities are. But the Boyd situation is separate to Wily.”
Stadium upgrades could be coming
Neither Tigers president/CEO Christopher Ilitch nor Avila provided much detail on potential offseason plans or spending when talking to reporters Friday afternoon following the Tigers team photo. But one revelation was the possibility of upgrades to Comerica Park, which is about to complete its 22nd season.
“It’s a great park and it’s held up reasonably well,” Ilitch said. “However, a big part of that is to make sure that we’re continually updating year in and year out and not waiting a great length of time before we make a big improvement. So we’ll make some improvements in the offseason.
“I think our team has been studying a list of maybe 10 different things that they’re considering, and we’ll probably narrow that down to three, four or five. Not really ready to publicly share what those are, because they’re still refining those lists.”