Knowing he might not pitch for a full year, Timberline High incoming senior Matt Mercer’s spirits remain high as he looks ahead to the positives of getting back to baseball.
Mercer, the Blazers’ highly touted recruit who touched 93 mph this spring, will need Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow after hearing and feeling a pop last month. He’ll have the surgery in Cincinnati Aug. 5, performed by Dr. Timothy Kremchek.
Mercer said he initially hurt the elbow June 7 while pitching for the Thurston County Saints, but while in Florida preparing for a Perfect Game showcase, felt a pop while playing catch. His recent MRI revealed his elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament was mostly torn, he added.
“I’ve never had elbow problems at all -- it was a fluke for me,” said Mercer, 17. “The way I’m thinking it, my elbow ran out of bullets and I have to refill the magazine.”
Tommy John surgery, named after the former Major League pitcher, is a surgical graft procedure in which a ligament is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
The surgery has an estimated recovery time of 10-12 months, and so far in 2014, 31 Tommy John surgeries have been performed on major- and minor-league pitchers.
For Mercer, he nor Blazers coach Matt Acker are ruling out a possibility of Mercer pitching late next spring for the Blazers.
“He should be able to play next spring, but not be able to pitch until the end of the season -- depending on the process and how well he recovers,” Acker said. “Theoretically, he could be a DH (designated hitter).”
This past spring, Mercer held opponents to a .133 batting average with 87 strikeouts over 49 innings and was named the 3A Narrows co-pitching MVP. He threw a season-high 109 pitches over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 (12 innings) loss to North Thurston on April 21.
Timberline went 22-3 overall this spring, advancing to the Class 3A regional. The school will make the jump to Class 4A this fall.
Mercer said he plans to make a verbal commitment to a college program as early as October, and is being recruited heavily by Pacific-12 and SEC programs, including Vanderbilt, which won the program’s first College World Series last month.