The start of the 2020 MLB season has been filled with complications. On some level, each and every one can be connected to the impact COVID-19 has had on the league. However, not all of them have manifested as positive tests.
A rash of early-season pitcher injuries has led to speculation that MLB’s late start and brief three-week summer camp left pitchers vulnerable. That trying to accomplish in three weeks what typically requires five or six weeks ultimately puts them at a higher risk for injury.
The numbers seem to support those theories.
Nearly three dozen pitchers sidelined
Less than one week into the season, 32 pitchers across 17 rosters have been placed on the injured list with arm or muscle-related injuries listed as the cause.
The injured include several big names — including three former Cy Young award winners: Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros and Corey Kluber of the Texas Rangers — and have left some teams scrambling for immediate reinforcements.
The hardest-hit team has been the Astros. In addition to Verlander, pitchers Rogelio Armenteros, (elbow surgery), Brad Peacock, (shoulder soreness) and Austin Pruitt (elbow inflammation) have been placed on the injured list.
Relievers Chris Devenski (elbow soreness) and Ryan Pressly (elbow soreness) are also currently sidelined, but officially listed as day-to-day. The team is also without starter Jose Urquidy for undisclosed reasons. As a result, the Astros have been digging deep into their reserves.
The Astros have had 5 relief pitchers make their major league debut this season, and another pitcher recalled yesterday (Nivaldo Rodriguez) has yet to pitch in the majors
— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) July 28, 2020
Other hard-hit teams
The Dodgers are down two starters with Kershaw and Alex Wood (shoulder soreness) on the IL.
The Rangers made one of the offseason’s biggest trades when they acquired Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians. Now Kluber is out at least one month with a muscle tear in his right shoulder.
On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals learned Miles Mikolas will undergo surgery on his right flexor tendon and will miss the remainder of the season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The New York Mets placed Marcus Stroman and Robert Gsellman on the IL right before opening day. Of course, the Mets were already without Noah Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery in March.
It’s not a good start for those arguing this will be a legitimate or competitive season.
Did pitchers have enough time to prepare?
Astros manager Dusty Baker doesn’t think so based on his comments Tuesday:
“It’s all around baseball; it’s everywhere,” Baker told MLB.com. “I’m hoping we learned a lesson by this. It couldn’t be helped because of the coronavirus, but I’m just hoping we don’t see any more injuries around the league, especially on our team.”
After the offseason, pitchers have had three weeks worth of spring training, followed by three-plus months of waiting, and then another three-week summer camp. They were not able to consistently build up arm strength as they typically would in spring training and were often limited to simulation games and scrimmages as preparation.
As Baker pointed out, there wasn’t much baseball could do given the circumstances. But it was suspected all along that expecting pitchers to ramp it up in three weeks could have consequences.
The rash of injuries represent a troubling, league-wide trend that highlights how many factors are working against every team and potentially working against this season being considered anything other than a failure. Even teams with quality depth are proving vulnerable and could be in trouble if more injuries hit or, worse yet, they are impacted by COVID-19.
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