The start of the 2020 Major League Baseball 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. But not all of them have manifested as positive tests.
A rash of early-season pitcher injuries has led to speculation that MLB’s brief three-week summer camp time wasn’t adequate enough to prepare for opening day. That pitchers spent that time trying to accomplish what typically requires five or six weeks and are now vulnerable and at a higher risk for injury as a result.
The numbers suggest those concerns could be accurate.
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.
Is the quick return to blame?
Astros manager Dusty Baker seems to 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. There 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. Early indications are those concerns were warranted.
Hardest hit teams
There’s a reason Baker was outspoken about the situation. His Astros have been hit harder than anyone to begin the season.
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.
The Dodgers are down two starters with Kershaw and Alex Wood (shoulder soreness) on the IL.
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.
It’s 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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