JUPITER, Fla. -- The most intimidating weapon in the Marlins' bullpen will not be available this season.
Carter Capps, one of the hardest throwers in baseball, has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and Tommy John surgery was scheduled for Tuesday. The procedure was to be performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.
After missing most of the second half of last season with a strained elbow, Capps entered Spring Training without any throwing restrictions, and he was projected to compete with A.J. Ramos for the closer role.
"Obviously, Carter was coming off a pretty historic year last year," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "He finished the year on the disabled list. So it was a tough blow, but I think we have the men in the clubhouse to replace him."
Capps experienced discomfort in his elbow while warming up to face batters in live batting practice on Feb. 28. The next day he was examined by team physician Dr. Lee Kaplan. An MRI revealed the UCL tear. The right-hander sought a second opinion and he met with Andrews on Monday.
Capps, 25, emerged as a late-inning force in 2015, posting a 1.16 ERA while striking out 58 in 31 innings in a setup role.
"It's definitely a loss," manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, Carter last year was as dominant when he was in there as it gets. You're talking about him in a closer role, he and A.J. We were going to see where that went. We want to be talking about that. Again, it's a loss. We've got to move forward."
Relievers typically have a shorter recovery period from Tommy John surgery than do starters. The Marlins are hopeful Capps will be ready for Opening Day 2017.
"Generally with relievers it's not as long as the starter's rehab," Hill said. "So without having gotten the feedback from the procedure, you're hopeful that he gets it taken care of now, and he rehabs. And this time next year, he is ready to go."
Ramos is now expected to close, but the right-hander has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game due to a stiff right calf. He has been throwing off a mound and has pitched in a simulated game. Ramos could be ready to go later in the week.
Capps has dealt with elbow issues the past few seasons. His 2015 season was cut short after he exited a game on Aug. 2 due to a right elbow strain. In 2014, Capps appeared in 17 games and spent time on the disabled list.
With an unorthodox delivery in which he propels himself off the pitching rubber toward the plate, Capps was at times unhittable in 2015. His 16.8 strikeouts per nine innings was tops among all relievers, better than even Aroldis Chapman (15.7).
According to Statcast™, Capps' average fastball velocity was 98.1 mph. The Baseball Savant website tracked 10 of his pitches at 100 mph or more in '15, the seventh most in the Majors. Had Capps stayed healthy, who knows how many times he would have eclipsed the century mark in velocity. He threw just 443 total pitches.
For perspective, St. Louis' Trevor Rosenthal threw the sixth-most pitches at 100 mph or more, 13, reaching that total in 1,205 pitches.
"I think it's an opportunity for guys," Mattingly said. "That's where we want to make sure we've got a number of guys we feel like have a chance at one point to be quality back-end guys. They may be guys two years from now that everybody looks at as some of the best in the game, and right now, people may not know their names."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.