Detroit Tigers' Sawyer Gipson-Long to undergo Tommy John surgery, miss rest of 2024 season

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers right-hander Sawyer Gipson-Long needs Tommy John surgery.

The procedure is scheduled for Monday.

Gipson-Long will miss the rest of the 2024 season. The 26-year-old suffered a left groin strain at the beginning of spring training, and after his first rehab start in early April, he reported right forearm tightness. Opinions from multiple doctors determined Gipson-Long requires a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

"I feel for Sawyer," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said before Friday's series opener against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. "He had no problems whatsoever until his last outing, and then it came up. The more we looked into it, the more this was the result. When you go and get opinions, you're always hoping there's a differing of opinions. In this case, it was pretty clear-cut what he needed to do, so now we'll miss him for this year and into next year. He'll go get it fixed, and like many around the game, he'll come back stronger than ever."

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Sawyer Gipson-Long of the Detroit Tigers throws a first-inning pitch against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park on September 28, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.
Sawyer Gipson-Long of the Detroit Tigers throws a first-inning pitch against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park on September 28, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.

Gipson-Long, who posted a 2.70 ERA in the first four starts of his MLB career last season, is undergoing the standard Tommy John surgery to fix the full tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. The standard surgery uses a tendon from elsewhere in the body to replace the ligament.

He's also getting the internal brace procedure. The new twist to Tommy John surgery inserts an internal brace created from artificial material to provide an extra layer of protection for the ligament.

Texas Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister, who recently operated the internal brace procedure on Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider's destabilized UCL due to a bone fragment, now does all of his Tommy John surgeries with an internal brace, both for full tears and partial tears. Gipson-Long visited Meister for his second of two outside opinions during his process, but the Tigers didn't reveal the doctor for his surgery. Tigers outfielder Riley Greene, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow last September, received an internal brace as part of his procedure with Meister, as did Tigers right-hander Casey Mize in June 2022.

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The standard timeline for a full recovery from the standard Tommy John surgery is 14-16 months, meaning Gipson-Long will be on the injured list to begin the 2025 season.

"Certainly hurts our depth," Hinch said. "He would have been in the mix to potentially be on our team on Opening Day or could have been called up at any moment with the type of pitcher that he is. We'll wait to get him back, and he'll be back in the mix whenever he's healthy. But it hurts, for sure."

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Gipson-Long, whose fastball sits around 93-94 mph, started four games for the Tigers to finish last season after making his MLB debut in September. Along with a 2.70 ERA, he logged eight walks and 26 strikeouts across 20 innings. He threw more sliders and changeups than fastballs in his four starts.

His slider had a 40.9% whiff rate; his changeup had a 50% whiff rate.

The Tigers acquired Gipson-Long from the Twins at the 2022 trade deadline.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Sawyer Gipson-Long to undergo Tommy John surgery