Brooks Raley of the Mets on April 14.

Brooks Raley of the Mets on April 14. Credit: Jim McIsaac

ARLINGTON, Texas — With a big brace on his arm and a tendon-turned-ligament freshly inserted into his elbow, Mets reliever Brooks Raley left no doubt. Next summer, when he will turn 37 and will have missed more than a year due to injury, he wants to resume his career and keep pitching.

Raley had Tommy John surgery, a season-ending operation, last month. He is determined to make sure that is not the end.

His plan, based on the timeline provided by his surgeon, Dr. Keith Meister: Throw off a mound by the spring to line up a midseason return. Then keep playing in the majors until he is at least 40.

“I know it’s going to be a long recovery, as everyone has told me. Slow and steady, slow and steady,” the lefthanded Raley told Newsday. “But I think at some point, you turn the page and keep moving. I think I have a place in the sport.”

Raley spoke in the visitors’ clubhouse this week at Globe Life Field, where he was making a rare appearance with the Mets. As a free agent after the season, he was effectively off the team (though still under contract, of course) upon deciding to get his elbow fixed, his Citi Field locker reassigned to another reliever and everything.

But with the Mets playing in his hometown, where he is rehabbing, he came to hang out and be one of the guys again for a few days, wearing the usual team swag and even sitting in the bullpen during games. Manager Carlos Mendoza said “his presence is huge.”

The Mets intended for Raley to be a big part of their late-inning relief picture, and for a couple of weeks he was. He had a 0.00 ERA in eight games. That ended when mid-April elbow inflammation wound up being far more complicated.

“You always put it to the back of your mind,” Raley said of a torn ulnar collateral ligament, a pitcher’s nightmare. “It’s not going to be me. I’m not going to be one of those guys.”

It never happens to you until it does.

“So I’m kind of in it now,” he said. “After stepping back, obviously it’s disappointing to not be on the team. And seeing these guys rolling and being back in this clubhouse, it’s tough. You come here, you want to win, win in New York and all that stuff. I’ve gone through all those emotions and whatnot. The five stages of it all. But I think I’m at peace with it.”

After Raley first sought Meister’s opinion, the Mets said Raley would rest for two weeks and reevaluate, which suggested he had a chance to return this season. The rest-and-rehab route sometimes allows pitchers with UCL issues to avoid going under the knife.

But Raley decided on surgery less than halfway through that period. He said he viewed it as the only option, especially as he sought to extend his career.

Consider: Had he delayed surgery, maybe he would’ve gotten back on a mound. Maybe his performance would’ve suffered. Maybe he would’ve needed surgery anyway — but at such a date that his entire 2025 would have been in doubt. That would be a tough sell for clubs looking for a lefty reliever come 2026.

So pitching with a bum elbow wasn’t going to happen.

“There’s an involved formula or model that says the best version of you is ‘this’ and you need to be that to be successful,” said Raley, who throws breaking balls nearly half the time, putting a lot of stress on the elbow. “In no way, shape or form — post-tearing it, at any time playing catch — did it feel like I could do that. That was ultimately the decision.

“[The Mets] wanted me to be me. And I want to be me. Ultimately, this is the best we can do with the situation . . . There was no solution that didn’t make this year shot. This is just a longer-term plan and the best one for me.”

Before the big surgery, Raley also had multiple bone spurs removed and was checked out for nerve issues, including possible thoracic outlet syndrome (another, rarer nightmare for pitchers). He had “tingling in my fingers and shooting pain down my arm,” he said.

But now he is good to go — or will be, come this time next year.

“I’m excited about that,” he said. “I feel good moving forward.”


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