known to baseball fans as Tommy John surgery, multiple
trips up and down between the minor and major
leagues. To alleviate stress on his knees, Flexen went
on a rigid strength and conditioning program and
went on a diet. By 2019 he was down to his current
215 pounds, even if he is still listed as 250 on some
baseball websites, including the Mariners site.
When he learned that he needed the arm surgery in
2014, he thought his career was over.
“ ‘My arm’s done,’ I thought. Then I do some research
and talk to doctors and hear stories that if you
do the rehab, more times than not, you’ll come out on
top. It was definitely tough at first after the surgery,
but I knew it was a marathon, not a sprint,” Flexen
said in an interview from Seattle.
Flexen knows to the day how long it took after the
surgery to repair a torn ligament in the elbow to pitch
in a game again: 11 months, 14 days. He was happy he
made it back within a year.
He even threw the ball harder after the surgery
and the time off. As a freshman in high school, he
threw the ball at 80 to 82 miles per hour. By his senior
year — he grew to 6 feet, 3 inches by the time he was
17 — he was throwing 88 to 91 mph and remained
near there until his surgery. But when he returned, he
was tossing the baseball at 94 to 96 mph. He says his
fastball averages between 91 and 94 these days.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
But the biggest change from the disappointing time
with the Mets and the success so far in Seattle wasn’t
the arm surgery or the knee surgeries in October 2015
after which he had to stay off his feet for two months,
or the one in March 2017 or the one in August 2018.
The biggest change was the confidence-building
year he spent playing in Seoul, South Korea for the
Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball Organization
during the pandemic in 2020. That league had a full
season, and its games were shown daily on ESPN
while the majors did not start until late July and had
an abbreviated season in the United States.
While pitchers in the American major leagues
were limited, Flexen had a full season. And for minor
leaguers in the U.S., there were no games at all in
2020. This made “Flex” all the more attractive to
Seattle and other teams interested in luring him back,
his agent Tom O’Connell of Tampa said.
After the 2019 season, on the day after the Mets
released Flexen, he signed with the Doosan Bears for a
reported $1 million.
“He went over there and was able to gain a lot of
confidence and understand who he was as a pitcher,”
He pitched about 150 innings including the postseason
in South Korea, and was stronger at the end of the
year, posting a 0.85 ERA in his last five regular season
starts and had a 1.91 ERA in solid starts in the postseason
including the Korean Series, a loss by the Bears
to the NC Dinos of Changwon.
PERSONAL LIFE GREW
Flexen said he grew as a person, too, in South Korea.
He learned to live in a vastly different culture and
Flexen walks on a beach with his fiancée, Raven Wade. They have been friends since
elementary school and have been dating since high school.
22 Port St. Lucie Magazine
he loved it. His longtime girlfriend and fiancée, Raven Wade, was
able to join him for a while.
“It helped me branch out a little,” Flexen said by phone on his
way to a practice in Seattle. “I didn’t get to explore too much because
COVID was still a thing at the time. I tried to embrace their culture as
best I could, among the team. I built a lot of great relationships over
there. I still talk to some of the guys over there.”
He loved the food. Korean barbecue, kimchi stew and kimchi fried
rice were just three of his favorites.
He was about to sign a two-year contract to remain in South Korea,
when the Mariners offered a two-year deal for a reported $4.75 million.
Columnist Larry Stone of The Seattle Times wrote in February that
Flexen left the Mets as a “broken prospect” and in 2021 now has a
chance, aided by his time in South Korea, to right his career.
“Going over to Korea, I was able to find myself again,” Flexen told
Stone. “I really found my breaking ball. That was a huge pitch for
me, something I used a lot. I was really able to get a feel in Korea for
how to use my curveball a lot more. It comes back to the confidence
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
The two Chris Flexens share much more than a name.
Chris Flexen, the dad, is married to Desiree, a girl he met when he