Calling All Healthy Pitchers! Hello? Are You Out There?

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No, of course nobody’s answering the phone because there aren’t any healthy pitchers. Not that are available anyway. Which must be why the latest trend in baseball is signing hurlers with a history of injuries. The Yankees? A.J. Burnett. The Red Sox? Brad Penny and John Smoltz. (I know, I know. The Yankees spent millions and the Red Sox didn’t. I’m just saying.)
The Yanks still need a #5 guy in the rotation, since Pettitte seems destined for retirement and/or many days in court testifying about The Rocket.
So back to the rumor mill I go. Yes, there was my post about Pedro the other day. But now people are throwing out names like Freddy Garcia,
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who’s had shoulder surgery – twice. A-Rod played with Garcia on the Mariners and is pushing for his former teammate. According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, Alex likes Garcia’s “fortitude.” I’m all for fortitude, but what about the actual ability to last more than an inning and get major league hitters out?
Randy Wolf is on the list,
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despite his two arm surgeries. He nearly pitched a no-hitter with the Padres, but how’s his shoulder right now?
Kelvim Escobar is yet another name being bandied about.
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He suffered a tear in his shoulder in ’08 but is trying to make a comeback. Swell. I feel better already.
And, finally, there’s Ben Sheets. He’s still around. Still unsigned. Still waving his medical records at GMs.
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He’s had problems with his elbow, his back, his inner ear, you name it. Just look at that delivery. I’d give myself a hernia if I threw like that.
Reclamation projects are very satisfying when they work out. But surely there must be someone out there who does not have the body of a dilapidated house.
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It would be great if the Yankees could depend on one or two of the rookies to fill the spot in the rotation, and maybe that’s how it’ll go. But what if Hughes/Aceves/Kennedy go down? We still need a body. Just not this body.
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Was it always like this? Were pitchers fragile in the old days when I watched them as a kid? Am I simply “misremembering,” as Clemens would say? Or do today’s pitchers put more stress on their arms? I’d love to hear everybody’s opinion about this. My husband thinks it was the same then as it is now, and reminded me about Sandy Koufax, who left the game in his prime because of injury. My take is that it’s different now; that for some reason these guys get hurt younger and more often. 
I’m beginning to wonder whatever happened to the robust, hearty, healthy athletes who once seemed indestructible.
It feels like this happened to them.
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29 Comments

Jane, you have to wonder if some of the arm & shoulder problems are the result of kids at younger and younger ages playing baseball year round, having private coaches and specializing too soon. The increase in knee problems and surgeries in teenagers is staggering. I don’t know what the answer is, but it is sad that people so young need to have so many surgeries. I wonder if in 10, 15, 20 years these guys will have any sort of normal use of their arms and shoulders.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Is that the case, Julia? Are kids playing baseball at younger ages than they used to? Maybe some hire private coaches, but even the players coming from the Dominican and other countries are going down with injuries and they don’t have private coaches. Seems like an epidemic, but maybe it was always this way and there was just less media coverage of it.

Jane,

Good point about the lack of healthy pitchers on the market. It seems to me that a lot of injuries have to do with the fact that pitchers either overthrow or just have unusual (and stressful) deliveries. Watching Jake Peavy, for instance, makes my arm hurt. There’s a tendency, especially for young pitchers, to want to overpower hitters and trying to throw 100 mph when you don’t have the natural ability to do so is bound to cause some damage. Of course, certain PEDs are also known to weaken muscles and tendons…

Hey, Erin. I’ve noticed the “violent” deliveries too, but wasn’t sure if this was something recent. It makes sense that the smoother motions would cause less stress on the arm. Of course you’re right about the PEDS, but I’m so naive about that situation. I still think most players are clean.

It is very interesting, the way there players are getting hurt. I have no idea what could be causing it, but the players these days are so much different than the ones back then.
http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

Are they different, Kaybee? That’s the question!

She-Fan,

I say we stop coddling these piddlyanty players of today. I know bloggers who blog hurt. I know supermodels who supermodel hurt. I know alcoholics who drink hurt. You think Obama will take a month off because of a hammy? That’s why Carl Pavano will never be President of the United States, and you may quote me.

el duque

You’re right, duque. I blog hurt all the time. The coddling must stop!

Jane,
Long time-no comment.
I think a big answer to the ‘why pitchers get hurt so much’ question can be answered not to far from my home in Williamsport, PA. I watch the little league world series every summer and along with the growing number of mustaches, there is also a growing number of “12-year-olds” throwing breaking-balls.
Back when I played ball, I saw nothing but fastballs and change ups until I hit Junior Legions. I didn’t pitch very often back then (occasionally some middle-relief), but I was told to not even attempt to throw a curve until I was 15-16. The way kids contort their arms to throw breaking pitches can cause ligament damage, and I think hurts their development. Carl Pavano and Mark Prior are two of the best examples of deliveries that work great but cause even greater harm. I hope Tim Lincecum doesn’t suffer from the same problems someday.
I miss your comments.
http://thegoodofthegame.mlblogs.com

Interesting, Scott. So throwing breaking balls at an early age might be the cause of these injuries later on. Makes sense. (Mustaches? Yikes.) If that’s the case, somebody should hold up a big “Stop” sign. Sorry to be remiss about commenting. I tend to click on links as they’re left here. Busy time for me right now. Thanks for stopping by.

that’s an interesting point, Jane.. why do the pitchers these days seem so fragile compared to the pitchers of old? never thought about that.. my only guess is that batters of today are so skilled at hitting that pitchers need tremendous skill in turn (and velocity) that the pitchers hurt themselves in the process

Burentt’s history scares me a ton. I’m very nervous giving him five years at that kind of money.

By the way, I just got the e-mail about the copy of “Confessions.” Thanks for considering me, Jane!

Jane,

I tend to agree with your husband. Pitchers were always suffering injuries. The reason you may be misremembering is that now there are many pitchers who have a history of injuries. Before Tommy John had his famous surgery, an arm injury pretty much mean the end of a career. There weren’t as many pitchers around who had a history of injuries because they were all retired. In fact I think more pitchers suffered injuries at young ages back then because no one was limiting their pitch counts at an early age. I’ve seen a study that showed that pitchers who routinely threw a lot of innings before age 25 have a much greater chance of suffering arm injuries. Of course, after age 25 I think we should let pitchers throw more than the 100 pitches they’re all limited to now. I agree with Duque. Stop the coddling!

Pinstripepride3.mlblogs.com

Levelboss, I don’t think it’s the velocity that’s causing the problem. I’m leaning toward Scott’s breaking ball theory.

And yeah, Andrew. Burnett’s history scares me too. If only we could hypnotize him into thinking that every year is a contract year🙂

You and my husband are on the same page, pinstripe. He used almost those exact words: “There weren’t as many pitchers around who had a history of injuries at young ages because they were all retired.” He remembers that they got hurt and just went away.

Thanks for sneaking into my hospital room and snapping the pic of me in body wrap. That was supposed to be a private moment, Jane. Didn’t you read Mark’s JBlog post about proper journalistic procedure? I’m hurt. Really hurt. I hope Pettitte retires now.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Sorry, Jeff. I had no right to sneak into your room, take a picture with my cell phone and spread it all over the Internet. I hope you’re over your injuries now and are back to throwing 100 mph.

I’m still hoping with all my might that the Yanks resume talks with Pettitte, though it seems doubtful. He would really complete the rotation perfectly though and I’m tired of seeing the Yanks buying up everyone [not entirely tired of it, but the hate generated from it is beyond ridiculous at this point]. I would love to see the rooks step it up but you can never depend on them these days, no matter how ready they seem to be for that responsibility. I guess we’ll see what happens..
V – http://flairforthedramatic.mlblogs.com

Hey, V. It’s not out of the question that the Yanks could trade Nady for a pitcher, but I just don’t want one who’s making a comeback from arm problems!

Jane,
I may be wrong, but didn’t Babe Ruth throw a fourteen inning complete game? If not, I’m pretty sure somebody did–so what’s happened to pitcher’s durability? Some not even being able to go half that time (all I ask for is seven innings Dice-K please!!!). I wonder why suddenly some can only go five innings, and that they’re getting injured every other day. I think the Yankees might as well look into the farm system for the fifth starting spot– you have to have some young one for the future (besides Joba).
-Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

OH MY GOD! You are the coolest blogger ever.

Not ONLY do you have a cracked out picture of Eric Clapton waking up in the morning, but you have a picture of Theo Epstein wearing a superman costume while all passed out drunk after a night out drinking with at one the many, many Boston bars!!!

Yeah, look at those phoney abs and everything. Gotta love Theo. He tries so hard to impress the girlies from BC.

But about pitching, I think the big surprise is going to be Aceves. Watch out for him.

AND-I would like to get one more solid high-average bat for the bootom of the lineup.

Or we can just have mr .241 in there. Wilson Betemit has a .260 Career avg, by comparison.

I can stand swisher and I hope he never plays an inning with this team. Swisher sucks only sucks 19% less then the WB. and his RISP numbers are actaully WORSE then WB!!!

Yeah. Improvement. Igf he is the RF, then get him that Superman outfit w/ the fake Gerard Butler abs. He’s gonna need it.

What i meant to say was that swisher sucks only 19% less than the WB.

Jane maybe it’s a case of “remember when?” Remember when pitchers were like steel and never broke? Remember when…? What we need to do is find a kinesiology major somewhere in this blogging community and have them analyze data of the last say 50 years of pitchers and injuries and see if there is a significant increase. Again Joan Wilder your imagination may have gotten the best of you!
tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

The Yankees have some good young arms on the farm, Elizabeth. But, as with your signing of Smoltz, a veteran presence is good insurance. You can never, ever have enough pitching!

MM, you are one wound up dude today. I liked what I saw of Aceves in September – a lot. But I said the same thing about Ian Kennedy the year before. So I’m reserving judgment until he gives us more to go on.

I’m not into stats, Tom, or I would have done a better job of delving into this whole question. Maybe there’s somebody somewhere who’s looked into it and can give us the answer!

Oh, I am just getting started. Wait till the season comes. We’ll have some sardonic fun!

But Aceves did something IPK did NOT do-He threw strikes INDISE with a powerful fast ball. Kennedy doesn’t have that sort of stuff nor the gonads to even try.

Aceves is a tough Humbre who can really turn into a good pitcher. He’s 26, so the time is now for him to do it.

I think the stadium should institute those barf bags in the unlikely event that Kennedy winds up pitching for the Yankees.

I know Kennedy didn’t inspire anybody in ’08, mm. But remember the end of ’07 when he came up? He was pretty impressive in a Moose-like sort of way.

Honestly, the only comparison between IPK and Mussina is how they pitch.

Kennedy made it CLEAR that he could care less about winning and losing. Did you here him being interviewed? On several occasions he showed that he cannot handle the pressure of the big leagues.

Mike Mussina had a GREAT attitude for his entire career, and found a way to pitch like a true professional.

Kennedy is a spoiled, coddled brat who can’t pitch his way out of a paper bag if it was a situation that meant anything. 2007 was an abberation and a fluke. he was “good” but the situations were low, low pressure.

Far be it from me to be Kennedy’s defender, but I think that the comment he made to the media about not being disappointed that he lost (or something like that) was more a sign of immaturity than actual attitude. If not, I would hope he learned something when they demoted him.

To be fair, a lot of people make immature comments, but that doesn’t always mean they will show it on the mound.

I think, though, it’s his attitude, which sorta reminds me of a little bit of Pavano….

Pavano? Yikes. I hope not for his sake – and ours.

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