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Mets’ Brooks Raley seeking outside opinion on elbow because injury is more ‘complex’ than initially expected

Brooks Raley’s elbow issue is more “complex” than what the left-hander and the Mets initially anticipated. It’s even more complex given his age (36 next month) and his contract status (free agent this winter), which is why he’s seeking an outside opinion with one of the top elbow specialists in baseball, Dr. Keith Meister.

“There are options,” Raley said Saturday at Citi Field. “We can potentially try to throw through it and see how that goes, which we did a little bit and kind of shut it down so we can get the inflammation down. But overall, I don’t have all the answers.”

Raley has been given a few different diagnoses from Mets team doctors and Dr. Meister, who saw his MRI results but has not seen him in person. He’s been told he has fraying in his ulnar collateral ligament and has bone spurs. Fraying of the UCL could mean an internal brace surgery, or it could require Tommy John surgery. Bone spur removal would require a recovery period of 2-3 months.

Having sought multiple opinions, the reliever decided to travel to Texas to see Dr. Meister in person to gain more clarity.

“I know there has been some speculation on both sides,” Raley said. “‘Oh, he has this,’ or ‘Oh, he has that.’ But it’s more complex than that.”

The Mets are getting by with one left-hander in the bullpen, Jake Diekman. Left-handers Josh Walker, Danny Young and Joey Lucchesi are all on the 40-man roster, currently playing with Triple-A Syracuse.

Raley’s elbow started to swell last month before the Mets went to California for seven games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. He wasn’t recovering after pitching and needed extra time in between outings, which isn’t exactly easy to give a reliever. The swelling wouldn’t go down in Los Angeles and the Mets had to place him on the injured list.

After going on the 15-day injured list April 21, Raley received a cortisone injection to help with the swelling and inflammation. He continued to play catch from flat ground, but the swelling and inflammation persisted. Raley underwent another MRI before the Mets started a six-game road trip in Tampa and the team said there was no structural damage.

However, there is damage of some sort, the extent of which the team and Raley have not made public. Raley has never had any major elbow issues in the past but has seen Dr. Meister, so he’s comfortable with the surgeon and respects his opinion. The Texas Rangers doctor is one of the premier shoulder and elbow specialists in baseball.

“Originally, I was very optimistic,” Raley said. “Original report said you’re good to go, no issues here. I was kind of excited about that. But then you get a few more eyes on it, and it’s like, hold on a second. I was trying to throw and just didn’t feel quite right. So it’s unfortunate, for sure. I love this team, I love this, this clubhouse and the fans and whatnot.”

Should Tommy John surgery end up being the best course of action, it could make it difficult for him to find another contract. Tommy John surgery would have him out for a year and trying to make a comeback at 37 or 38 years old would not be ideal. He’s been one of the Mets’ best relievers since they traded for him last winter, but he doesn’t have the same track record as other veteran relievers.

Raley pitched in Korea for five seasons before his MLB career took off. He was good in Houston, great in Tampa Bay and solid with the Mets. he went 1-2 last season with a 2.80 ERA in 66 games (54 2/3 innings). He had yet to allow an earned run through seven innings this season.

At the moment, Raley isn’t thinking about his career future, he’s thinking about how he can still help the Mets this season. He doesn’t have any answers yet, but he’s hoping he will after he returns from Texas.

“All options are being weighed,” Raley said. “My skill set and what I do at my age doesn’t really matter. To me, it’s about being healthy. If I’m the same player on the field every night, I’m going to bring a lot to the team. I think most of us know it’s very difficult to play in the big leagues. You’ve got to play at 90 to 100 percent, you can’t play at 70 percent and whatnot. So I’m just trying to be that player.”


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