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Can the Mariners overcome early hurdle created by Drew Smyly's injury?

·Yahoo Sports Contributor
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Any manager will tell you the main goal is to get through the final week of spring training healthy. Unfortunately for the Seattle Mariners, the injury bug bit just as the team broke camp, and it’s going to cost them a key starting pitcher for up to two months.

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According to general manager Jerry Dipoto, left-handed starter Drew Smyly has been diagnosed with a flexor strain in his left elbow. Granted, that’s not the worst possible news a player dealing with elbow issues can receive, but it’s not great news either. It’s believed Smyly will be sidelined around six to eight weeks.

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That surgery isn’t a consideration right now is the biggest positive. But there’s always reasonable concern about setbacks that could extend Smyly’s absence deep into the summer. Either way, the Mariners could be fighting an uphill battle from Day 1.

When the Mariners acquired Smyly from Tampa Bay in January, it was one of the most important of Dipoto’s 14 trades completed during the offseason. Smyly was being counted on to stabilize the backend of Seattle’s rotation. Now there will be extra pressure on breakout candidate James Paxton and veteran Yovani Gallardo to help support Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Given Hernandez’s struggles last season, there’s no guarantee he’ll bounce back to top form either, so the trickle down here could be big.

The Mariners will have to start the season without Drew Smyly. (AP)
The Mariners will have to start the season without starting pitcher Drew Smyly. (AP)

“It’s a key loss,” Dipoto said of Smyly’s injury. “I could sit here and lament the fact we’ve lost Drew for a period of time, or I could take a positive outlook. We’re days away from opening day, and it does nobody any good if we break camp with our heads down.”

“Drew Smyly was and is important to our season. I anticipate he’s going to contribute at some point, just not as soon as we expected. We’re still very happy with the acquisition, loved what he looked like when he was here in spring training with us and believe he’ll be an impact player for us at some point in the not-too-distant future.”

On the bright side, this is the first major setback the Mariners have suffered this spring. On the down side, there was already little margin for error with Texas and Houston poised to make postseason runs as well. The AL West is going to be wild, and if the Mariners want to end baseball’s longest postseason drought, they’ll have to hope Smyly’s injury is a blip on the radar and not the start of a trend.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!