Red Sox reliever Carson Smith left today’s game after just five pitches upon experiencing forearm issues, as Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports. The righty is said to have had “tightness” and “a little cramping,” which he said he’s never felt before.
Forearm issues, of course, can often be predecessors to more significant elbow troubles, so it’s easy to see why Boston manager John Farrell was quick to react. Both Farrell and Smith expressed some concern, though it’s obviously too soon to know the prognosis. According to the statistical research of MLBTR contributor Bradley Woodrum, Smith has a slightly elevated Tommy John risk profile entering 2016.
Smith was a significant offseason acquisition for newly-minted Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who sent Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for Smith and southpaw Roenis Elias. He is expected to hold down an important setup role in a reworked Boston pen.
After an outstanding but brief debut in 2014, Smith delivered a big campaign last year in his first full season of MLB work, getting excellent results from his sidearm delivery and sinker/slider combo. The former eight-round draft pick spun 70 frames of 2.31 ERA pitching, racking up 11.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9. He also induced grounders on 64.8% of the balls put in play against him while surrendering only two long balls, making for a rare combination of strikeout ability and batted-ball dominance.
Smith is not just a near-term asset, of course, as he’s compiled just 1.028 years of MLB service to date. Boston controls him for two more seasons at the league minimum and can keep him via arbitration through 2020.
The Red Sox will send Smith in for an evaluation with the club physician this evening, and Silverman suggests an MRI appears likely. While acknowledging his concern, Smith did note that “we toyed with some tests in there” — presumably, referring to the clubhouse — “and … there were optimistic results.”
There’s still ample late-inning depth in Boston, of course, beginning with fellow offseason acquisition Craig Kimbrel in the 9th inning. Stalwarts Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are still on hand, with other options in camp including righties Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Noe Ramirez, Roman Mendez, and Carlos Marmol. Knuckler Steven Wright could work from the pen if he doesn’t crack the rotation, as could Elias or fellow southpaw Brian Johnson.