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Mariners’ Robbie Ray to undergo season-ending elbow surgery

Robbie Ray’s flexor tendon injury will reportedly need surgery to repair, ending his 2023 season before it even began.

Robbie Ray of the Seattle Mariners reacts during the second inning against the Cleveland Guardians at T-Mobile Park on March 31, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

As days and weeks went by and Robbie Ray still had yet to resume throwing after suffering a strain of the flexor tendon in his forearm in March, the silence started to feel like a red flag. And sure enough, on Wednesday the worst-case scenario came to pass: Ray’s injury will in fact require surgery to heal, ending his 2023 season after a single start.

Ray was set to be a key cog in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation this season alongside Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. His signing in Seattle last offseason — after a career year in which he took home AL Cy Young honors with the Toronto Blue Jays — signaled the dawn of a new era for the franchise, one that hadn’t tasted the postseason since 2001. Ray had an up-and-down first season with the team, posting a 3.71 ERA, but he gave them reliable depth every fifth day and played a key role in mentoring Seattle’s young arms as the Mariners captured that long-awaited playoff berth.

With just about everybody back and Teoscar Hernandez now on board, Seattle entered 2023 with bigger expectations than they’d seen in years. But Ray struggled through his first start of the year, allowing three runs (five earned) on four hits and five walks against the Cleveland Guardians. He felt discomfort in his elbow in the days that followed, and the team shut him down with what was deemed a flexor tendon strain.

Ray was expected to resume light throwing at several points over the course of the month, but his elbow never felt quite right, leading the team to eventually shut him down for good. Chris Flexen has been thrust in the rotation in Ray’s absence and struggled mightily, with an 8.86 ERA and five homers allowed in just 21.1 innings. At 11-12 and with a scuffling offense, Castillo, Gilbert and Kirby are going to have to do some very heavy lifting to keep Seattle in the AL West race.