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In wake of Matt Harvey injury, pitchers ponder what can be done
Drew Storen was about 15 years old when he got a chance to talk to Dr. Timothy Kremchek. Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds' medical director, talked to the young right-hander about pitching — and about how it is simply not something the body is really built to do.
"He told me that you're essentially red-lining your [ulnar collateral ligament] when you throw 88 mph," Storen said Tuesday. The average major league fastball this season is 91-92 mph.
"[Kremchek] was the one who told me how unnatural everything is," Storen said. "That's why we work so hard ... to make everything strong around it."
On Monday, the baseball world was hit with another punch to the gut when it learned yet another promising power arm may be ticketed for Tommy John surgery, which carries with it at least a yearlong rehab.
Matt Harvey, the star of the New York Mets' staff and their greatest hope for the future, started the All-Star Game six weeks ago. An MRI exam Monday revealed a slight tear in his right elbow UCL.
In the coming weeks he'll have to mull whether or not to succumb to the surgery and rehab that so many before him have had to face.
Harvey may try to rehab the injury without surgery, but he may also join the list of star players who have had it. Stephen Strasburg. Adam Wainwright. Jordan Zimmermann. Francisco Liriano. Chris Carpenter. Kerry Wood. A.J. Burnett.
The list could go on.
Harvey is one of the major leagues' brightest young stars, in top shape and said to have good mechanics. So his injury reignited the conversation on how best to protect pitchers.
It was another moment in which most everyone was reminded that there seems to be no definite answer to that question.
"I'm sure they were very careful about his progression," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "I'm sure they did everything they could about pitch count and his throwing between [starts], everything you can. He's got such a great arm and great stuff, that's stressful on the elbow. The changeup, the slider, the curveball, the 100 mph fastball.
"It's just one of those freak things that happen. Strasburg, he hurt his on the changeup, and I don't think he'd been throwing the changeup that much. So you could see maybe that. But [Harvey's] got great mechanics, and it just happened. ...You do everything you can to protect an individual. But sometimes it's not enough."
It was interesting on Monday to listen to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson discuss Harvey's injury, and note that the pitcher had been undergoing preventive elbow treatment since spring training.
It didn't stop this from happening.
A few Nationals pitchers, several of whom were abuzz about the Harvey news, said that kind of treatment is fairly common.
Everything they do to take care of their bodies, in essence, is in an effort to prevent injuries — to the elbow or anywhere else. They work hard to prevent them. But, ultimately, many pitchers admitted they know there's no magic formula, either.
"We're essentially going through physical therapy everyday," Storen said. "There's no right answer to any of it. ... That's why you err on the side of caution."
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About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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