The hits keep coming. And no solution is in sight. Major League Baseball has a large problem on its hands. It's top pitchers keep getting hurt. And it won't stop anytime soon.
Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is just the latest, with a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow that - at this point - won't require surgery. It will, however, require at least six weeks off for rehab.
Six weeks out of a season that started at 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA with Tanaka a favorite for the American League Cy Young. Now, he'll sit.
"I think we managed him the best we could," manager Joe Girardi said to MLB.com. "We were careful. If you can remember, I was asked a thousand times why I moved him back about two weeks ago. We did everything we could to give him extra rest and not have him throw too many pitches. And we'll continue to do that, because we know we've got to keep him healthy."
Most times, UCL injuries turn into Tommy John surgery. Last year, Mets ace Matt Harvey had to have the surgery after attempting to rehab. He'll likely miss this entire season after missing the end of last year.
"I would tell him to just go with what you feel," Harvey said. "I didn't listen to anybody. I went off of my personal feelings. It's your body that you want to throw with again, obviously. If you want to go out and try not to have [surgery] and have your mind set to that and you're 100-percent committed to that, more power to you. If it's the other way around, go get it done."
Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, one of the top writers on MLB issues, wrote Thursday that the issue is even worse than what people see because teams and the league are not coordinating efforts to research the causes of the rash of injuries.
"This is almost a $10 billion industry, one that gets its most valuable asset – the pitcher, on whom teams spend $1.5 billion every year – without any idea how his most valuable limb was treated over the previous 18 years," Passan wrote. "It's not the bastion of efficiency, particularly for an industry that prides itself on exploiting every little inefficiency."
Reason for the increase
It's an issue without a clear culprit. Some blame years of overuse. Tanaka definitely had that. Some blame the percentage of offspeed pitchers. Tanaka and his split-finger fastball fit that too.
Others blame proper rest between outings. That didn't seem to be an issue, at least now. It seems like every pitcher is different and every arm can handle different things, but the number of Tommy John injuries this season have put the issue at the forefront.
This has never happened before, the game losing so many of its top pitchers around the same time when teams seem to be handling their prospect pitchers with more baby gloves than ever.
It's frustrating, it's hurting the game and it makes guys like Clayton Kershaw who haven't been hurt even more valuable.
Between Tanaka, Jose Fernandez, Harvey, Matt Moore, Patrick Corbin and Martin Perez you would have the best pitching rotation in baseball. All are out for a significant amount of time and, each week, it seems a new name is added to the list.
Baseball has a problem, a big one. But baseball isn't even close to finding a solution.
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