It is interesting on how depleted the Toronto Blue Jays are due to injury. I outlined in my last post all about the position players, now for the pitchers.
The pitching staff has been picked apart and has seen more then its fair share of adversity to say the least. Kyle Drabek 60-day DL, Jason Frasor 15-day DL, Drew Hutchison 60-day DL, Jesse Litsch 60-day DL, Dustin McGowan 60-day DL, Brandon Morrow 60-day DL, Luis Perez 60-day DL, Sergio Santos 60-day DL. Is this just bad luck or does it go deeper then that?
It seems like teams, because of signing bonuses, rush players along to get the most for their money. I is a little odd that a player can be making more money in A ball one year then someone playing in the majors at that same time. You do get rewarded for potential, and that is not necessarily a good thing. The minor leagues are there for the purpose of developing players in all positions. When a pitcher makes it to the majors they should be major league ready...completely ready. That includes a strong, refined, reliable arm that is fit to throw over 200 innings in a year. The Majors is not the place to develop that.
It is rushing pitchers in particular that has the Washington Nationals in the news right now because star pitcher Stephen Strasberg may be shut down at 180 innings. This is fine, except they are 1st in the NL East right now and how can you shut down your number 1 guy? Do you bring him back for the playoffs? These are questions that should not need to be asked. Oh, and Strasberg has already had Tommy John surgery.
I thinks that it may be more important to have pitchers throw more and not less. Starters throwing more in-between starts to strengthen their arms. Don't baby pitchers and have them on such a short leash. It is just common sens that a young persons arm will be stronger and more resilient then that of an older player. Use the benefit of youth to bring along pitchers quicker by making them stronger and allowing them to grow by throwing more often. Look at what the Yankee's did with the "Joba rules" and limited pitches and innings and outings. What did that do? Exactly what it was set up to avoid. Washington tried a similar thing with Stephen Strasburg and he required Tommy John as well. What about Matt Clement, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. That had all the makings of a dynasty rotation but was instead ravaged by injury.
Make pitchers pitch in the minors, and pitch deep into games. Teach a pitcher early that the goal is to pitch 8 solid innings each start is the goal, not 5 1/3 innings and then going to the bullpen for a lefty-lefty match-up. More throwing, more often, and deep into games. They used to do that in the mid 1900's. Players are bigger and stronger and better conditioned now. There is better medical treatment now. There is more knowledge about good mechanics to save arms...use them. If guys could do what they did in the 40's, 50's, and 60's shouldn't the "super athletes" of today be better equipped and be able to handle even more? One would think so. Teach the pitchers to throw a good slider and/or develop a cutter and not throw as many curve balls is a good option as well. The curve balls are know to put even more added stress on the elbow then the average pitch. All these young kids are far better suited to learn those pitches and develop control and then, when more mature, learn and develop the curve more at the higher pro level. If you already have the strong arm it is better equipped to handle the strain of the high torq a curve requires.
Sure there is no sure way to avoid injury and every players is different. On the whole a new plan may not be a bad idea. When you hear about Dr. James Andrews more then a teams prospects you know there is a problem. The name of an orthopedic surgeon should not be the name most affiliated with your sport. With the amount of work he seems to be getting from baseball It is like he is the hot dog vendor on the Simpsons when Marge wonders why he follows Homer around everywhere and he responds "Lady, he's putting my kids through college!"