On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced Dustin May will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and be sidelined until the second half of the 2022 season. That was terrible news for the franchise as it was positioning May to be a future front-of-the-rotation guy. But the Dodgers aren't alone in their tale of woe. Pitchers all across Major League Baseball are winding up in the injured list at an alarming rate to start the season.
ESPN reporter Alden Gonzalez posted the following stat about pitching injuries in the first month of the 2021 season:
So there were more injuries to pitchers this April than in April 2018 and April 2019 combined. That's insane, but not shocking if you consider the crazy last 14 months baseball players have experienced.
While we can't simply blame this year's injuries on last year's shortened season, around MLB there was serious concern about injuries entering 2021. If you talked to anyone associated with the game on any level, they would all express worry about pitchers specifically.
Last year Lance Lynn led all of baseball with 84 innings pitched. Only three hurlers topped 80 innings and only 17 topped 70. In 2021 those pitchers are expected to work a full load of innings -- sometimes more than 200 -- and that might just be too much to handle.
In the past 14 months pitchers have had to get ready for 2020 spring training, ramp up to the season, shut it down, ramp up their throwing programs again, go into a 60-game season without a full spring training, relax in the offseason, ramp up again, then go through a full spring training and start a new season on time. Some guys will probably handle that well, but its inevitable that many won't. It's also worth noting that shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered offseason training plans for a lot of pitchers.
If you want to see a crazy rash of pitching injuries look no further than the Dodgers' rival, the San Diego Padres. Mike Clevinger suffered an elbow injury that necessitated offseason Tommy John surgery, while Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon, Jacob Nix and Jose Castillo have all had it since March 1. And then there's Dinelson Lamet, who is having elbow issues but no one knows if he'll be able to play through them or not. That's six players dealing with elbow issues over the past few months in one organization.
Meanwhile, if you look down the MLB's injured list you see it littered guys struggling with shoulder, forearm and elbow injuries, and muscle pulls. There's no firm answer for what's actually happening to pitchers across baseball, but it's a fair bet that the strain of the last 14 months has worn guys down.
Eventually teams may have to shift to six or even seven-man rotations to keep the strain off their aces. Otherwise it may get ugly down the stretch as they search for healthy arm.