Friday, June 15, 2012

Dropping Like Flies

As far as I know, there is no vaccine for 'elbow damage'.

I mean, it's not like polio.

For professional baseball players, repetitive stress injuries like the ones that seem to have afflicted Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are, quite simply, an occupational hazard.  Especially for pitchers.  

Dr. James Andrews is the most popular name is sports medicine for a reason, people.  And the procedure that's surely become routine for him by this point, the dreaded Tommy John surgery, has increasingly become a rite of passage for pitchers.

For those of you who don't know, Tommy John surgery is a reconstruction -- or, more commonly, a replacement -- of the ulnar collateral ligament, with a recovery rate estimated at 85%.  In 2003, roughly one in nine major league pitchers had been acquainted with Mr. John, according to a USA Today study. I don't have any data that's more recent, but I think it's reasonable to presume that rate has increased significantly.

Drabek's gone under the knife once, and, as Sportsnet's Mike Wilner suggested earlier today, he could very well do it again.  It's premature to suggest that Hutchison is destined for the operating table, but the disconcerting way he massaged his forearm/elbow area this evening wasn't exactly promising.

Of course, all of this is compounded by the fact that Brandon Morrow was also lifted from his last outing due to an injury. He was subsequently placed on the 15-day DL with, officially, an oblique strain.  This is an injury that's fairly common and rarely serious, but there's something very unsettling about the manner in which people -- especially Blue Jays media -- have been describing his current maladie.

It goes without saying that losing any-to-all of these pitchers for an extended period of time would effectively dash any delusions of contending for a playoff spot this year.  But it'd be even more devastating if either Drabek or Hutch were forced to go under the knife.  While great strides have been made with respect to TJ and its recovery process, it is not a guaranteed procedure, and younger subjects are particularly susceptible to recovery failures, according to Thomas Gorman of Baseball Prospectus.  Doesn't exactly inspire hope for the 21-year-old Hutchison or 24-year-old Drabek, who, as mentioned above, has done this dance before. 

I know I'm letting my imagination run away with me, but Drabek and Hutch are were considered to be two of the more prominent cornerstones of Toronto's rotation of the future.  

We'll wait with baited breath for further news on these two.

For now, I'll keep working on that vaccine.

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