Detroit — Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd didn’t necessarily get good news after talking to several prominent arm specialists across the country, but he might’ve got the best news he could’ve hoped for given the tender condition of his left forearm and elbow.
Boyd is scheduled for surgery Monday in Dallas with Dr. Keith Meister to repair the flexor tendon in his left arm. The immediate fear when Boyd went back on the injured list a second time on Sept. 11 was that he would need ligament replacement surgery — Tommy John surgery.
“All the doctors Matthew talked to all came back with the exact same issue — flexor tendon,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Obviously, it’s a significant surgery, but it’s not as widely known as Tommy John. I just know Boyd was excited that was the least of the issues he might’ve had.
“When you get notable doctors like that from across the country agree this is the best-case scenario for him, I see it as a positive.”
The recovery time from Tommy John surgery is approximately 18 months. The typical recovery time from flexor tendon surgery is nine months. If all goes well, Boyd could conceivably be back throwing competitively by June 1, 2022.
“I just kept an open mind about it,” Boyd said before the game Friday. “I talked to guys who had Tommy John and I didn’t have the same symptoms. I’m just looking forward to putting this behind me. Both the doctors said the success rate (for flexor tendon surgery) is higher than Tommy John.”
Boyd, who consulted with Dr. Meister and Los Angeles-based Dr. Neal ElAttrache, as well as the Tigers’ medical team, expects to spend the first two weeks after the surgery in Dallas at Meister’s rehab center. With his wife Ashley expecting twins, he will spend November and December at home in the Seattle area before reporting to Lakeland in December.
Boyd expects to start his throwing program in December.
“I kind of look at this like the intermission for Act Two of my career,” he said.
The looming question, of course, is where Act Two will be played out. Boyd, entering his age-31 season and a free agent after the 2023 season, made $6.5 million this season and is eligible for arbitration this winter. The Tigers will need to decide whether to tender him a contract.
“He’s going to have the surgery and then after the surgery, we will see where we are at,” general manager Al Avila said. “There is a potential deal to be made, but I’m not prepared to think about that at this point. I’m not ready to make a 100% commitment right now, either.
“We will reassess and discuss after the surgery and in the offseason.”
Boyd, the Tigers’ Opening Day starter the last two seasons, has been in Detroit the last seven years and before the injury was pitching his best baseball certainly since early in the 2018 season. He had a 1.94 ERA with opponents hitting just .203 against him, with 29 strikeouts and nine walks through his first seven starts.
“I’m all on board with Matt Boyd,” Hinch said. “I think he’s part of a solution. Obviously, it factors in where he’s at in his career, his age and contract — all of that is going to be taken care of eventually. But as a person and a player, Matt Boyd is a winner and I think he learned a lot this season that’s going to make him better in the years to come.”
Boyd will let his agent, Scott Boras, sweat the contract issue. His focus is solely on the surgery and subsequent recovery. But, talking to him Monday, there is a fire raging inside him.
“I’m focusing on what I do know,” he said. “I know I’m going to use this time to get my forearm stronger, to get my shoulder stronger and my lower half stronger. I’m going to come back healthier and stronger and better than I was before. This season I started realizing the best baseball I’ve pitched and then this (injury) comes up.
“To me, it’s exciting. I’m excited to put this behind me and be uninhibited going forward. Everything else will take care of itself. When I pick up a baseball next year, they’re going to get the best version of Matthew Boyd, and that’s exciting.”
Royals at Tigers
► First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► RHP Jon Heasley (0-1, 9.00), Royals: Called up from Double A last week to replace Brady Singer, Heasley gave up a couple of home runs and four runs in four innings against Seattle in his big-league debut. He features a 93-mph four-seam fastball with a slow curve and change-up.
► LHP Tarik Skubal (8-12, 4.25), Tigers: This will be his 30th and next to last appearance of what has been a successful rookie season. He set a club rookie record with 162 strikeouts with just 46 walks. He’s made three, three-inning starts this month and in those nine innings allowed four runs, a .229 opponent average with 12 strikeouts and just one walk.