Bryan Woo makes strong start but leaves on an injury cliffhanger

After putting on a strong pitching performance, the end of his outing left Mariners fans wondering if Bryan Woo was injured or not after the Athletics game
Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

On March 28 of this year, the Mariners placed Bryan Woo in the 15-day IL due to right medial elbow inflammation. After making three rehab starts totaling 11 ⅓ innings in AAA, he made his first major-league start of 2024 against the Oakland Athletics.

It started off okay. After getting Abraham Toro to fly out and striking out Brent Rooker on four pitches, he won a 13-pitch battle against Seth Brown to finish his first inning of work. In total, he threw 26 pitches to record his first three outs but avoided conceding any runs.

He then cruised the next three innings, relying on great soft contact but still putting up three strikeouts. His velocity was looking excellent, sitting at 95-97 mph on his four-seam fastball and 92-94 mph on his sinker. After an arduous start, he needed a total of only 34 pitches to get through the second, third, and fourth innings.

Prior to the game, Scott Servais had mentioned that he would be thrilled if Woo would be able to get through five innings of work but was planning holding him to a pitch count of around 80. As he took the mound in the fifth inning, Woo was at just 60 pitches, so it seemed like he had another in him.

While it took him just two pitches to get Tyler Soderstrom to pop out, something was clearly wrong. It was made obvious when a lengthy mound visit was called and he spoke with the athletic trainer, seeming to indicate that he had felt some sort of discomfort. Servais came out of the dugout and Bryan Woo left the game, replaced by Trent Thornton.

To make matters more complicated, his last two pitches had velocities around 88 mph and were classified as sliders by Statcast. However, upon taking a closer look at the intrinsic characteristics of the pitch, it was clear that they were actually four-seam fastballs and not sliders.

Following the game, Woo stated that he felt tightness in his forearm because of the long break caused by Seattle's offensive outburst in the fourth inning. The team didn't seem too concerned and Servais even said that he expected Woo to make his next scheduled start.

Even without the injury, there were so many questions surrounding Woo and his role as a starter for Seattle. Would he finally be able to develop a secondary pitch to complement his impressive fastball arsenal, similar to how Bryce Miller developed a splitter in the offseason? Would he be able to close the gap between his performance against RHB (.495 OPS in 2023) and LHB (.928 OPS in 2023)? With the effects of this injury still possibly lingering, the future has become even more muddled.