Emotional Drew Smith likely headed for second elbow surgery with the Mets

New York Mets relief pitcher Drew Smith delivers in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers, Monday, June 17, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

NEW YORK (AP) — An emotional Drew Smith acknowledged his future with the New York Mets is uncertain Friday, when the right-handed reliever and impending free agent said he’d likely need a second reconstructive surgery on his elbow.

Smith went on the injured list with a right elbow sprain Tuesday, two days after he exited after getting two outs in the ninth inning of a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs because he had a hard time getting loose. The 30-year-old was pressed into action and tried warming up on the field after closer Edwin Diaz was ejected for having an illegal substance on his hand.

Smith said an MRI revealed “…some pretty significant damage.” He is scheduled for a second opinion with Dr. Keith Meister but said he expects to undergo either Tommy John surgery or the UCL repair with an internal brace. Smith missed the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“Just sucks, you know?” said Smith, whose voice broke as tears formed in his eyes as he spoke before the Mets' series opener against the Houston Astros. “My second one. Been with the Mets for a long time and I love this organization. They’ve done a lot for me. And obviously, going into free agency, it’s a tough time for this to happen. There’s never a good time for it to happen, but this really stings.”

Smith, who spent five weeks on the injured list with a sore right shoulder earlier this season, said he began feeling stiffness in the elbow while pitching against the Cubs on June 21. He felt better Saturday but said the discomfort returned quickly Sunday night.

“I kind of knew something was going on and I just tried to pitch through it,” Smith said. “I don’t think the warmup had anything to do with the outcome. I think it was already kind of decided.”

Smith was 1-1 with two saves and a 3.06 ERA this season and is 12-13 with a 3.48 ERA and five saves in 191 career games, all with the Mets. He was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Lucas Duda on July 27, 2017, and debuted on June 23, 2018, making him the second-longest tenured player on the team behind left fielder Brandon Nimmo.

“Not good news — it’s hard, obviously, because of who he is not only as a player but as a person, what he means to this organization,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said. “This is a professional. He went down early in the year, got back and was always available, always wanted to take the ball, always wanted to help the team.”

Smith is the fourth key Mets reliever on the shelf. Díaz is two games into a 10-game suspension for his ejection while Sean Reid-Foley was placed on the injured list last Saturday with a right shoulder impingement. Left-hander Brooks Raley is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery with an internal brace procedure on May 29.

“We’re going to need guys to step up,” Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said.