NEW YORK (AP) — Mets starter Mike Pelfrey has a partial tear in his right elbow and is "99 percent" certain he will have reconstructive Tommy John surgery that will sideline him until next year.
The team made the announcement about its up-until-now durable pitcher shortly after New York beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 Thursday.
"Obviously, it's frustrating," Pelfrey said. "I've never been hurt in my life."
Pelfrey is 0-0 with a 2.29 ERA after three starts. He was a big part of the Mets' rotation the past four years, especially after ace Johan Santana needed shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2011 season.
"Everything was working," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "To have this happen is a true shame."
Added fellow starter Jonathon Niese: "It's a sad day."
The injury could end Pelfrey's career with the Mets, who selected him ninth overall in the 2005 amateur draft. The 28-year-old right-hander is making $5,687,500 this year and the team may decide not to tender him a contract for 2013, especially since he is likely to miss a significant chunk of the season while rehabbing.
The recovery time for Tommy John surgery is typically 12-18 months.
If the Mets want to keep Pelfrey under their control, in December they would have to offer him at least $4.55 million for next year. Pelfrey is eligible for arbitration after this season and can become a free agent following the 2013 World Series.
Pelfrey's best season was 2010, when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA. He has thrown at least 184 innings in each of the past four years, topping 200 innings twice.
The Mets' win made them 11-8, a nice start during a season in which many of their fans predicted dire results. They still have Dillon Gee and R.A. Dickey in the rotation, along with Santana and Niese.
Chris Schwinden will be called up from Triple-A Buffalo to pitch in Pelfrey's place Friday at Colorado, but it's not yet known how the Mets plan to fill the spot long-term.
The news about Pelfrey was somewhat surprising considering his last start. He was terrific Saturday over eight innings against San Francisco, another sign that he was rebounding well from going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA last season.
Pelfrey said he often felt "a little bit of tightness" in his arm on his first pitch of an inning versus the Giants, but that the sensation would go away. He said he'd already been looking toward his next start, this Friday at Colorado.
Pelfrey said he figured he had tendinitis. The Mets put him on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday when an MRI showed swelling in the joint.
At the time, however, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he couldn't rule out a ligament tear.
"There was never any pain," Pelfrey said. "I feel good. I can go out and pitch."
Pelfrey said doctors told him there was 10-20 percent chance that an injection could help him avoid surgery. But Pelfrey said he realized there was a possibility he might alter his delivery to compensate, and could cause a shoulder problem that would be much more complicated to heal.
The MRI results were sent to orthopedist Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. After Andrews consulted with the Mets on Thursday, it was decided that Pelfrey would make an in-person visit to see the doctor, known for ligament-replacement operations.
A year after struggling without Santana, the Mets have again been beset by injuries. New leadoff man and center fielder Andres Torres hurt his left calf on opening day and went on the disabled list and left fielder Jason Bay broke a rib this week and was put on the DL.