One man is the ultimate workhorse pitcher of his generation, the other is a scientist who has spent his professional life trying to gain a greater understanding of why pitchers get hurt. On one side, we have Justin Verlander, who theorized this week that many pitchers are breaking down in the big leagues because they’re "coddled" in the minor leagues. On the other side, we have Dr. Glenn Fleisig, who respectfully argues the other side: that no pitcher is destined to wind up in an operating room some day. There's no absolute right in this debate. There's no absolute wrong. What matters most is that six big league pitchers this spring are either about to have Tommy John surgery or have already had it -- and baseball is full of people with theories on why. One of them is Verlander. He was busy dissecting his most recent spring start for the Detroit Tigers the other day when the talk turned to the parade of pitchers who have already gone down this spring. It's a trend that amazes him -- and everyone else. "Yeah, crazy," he said, but he didn't stop there. "You know, I've got my theories on that," he went on. "I think baseball coddles guys so much now that you delay the inevitable. I think the reason you see so many big leaguers blowing out at a young age is because they would have done it before. But now teams limit pitch counts so much, even at the major league level, that now a guy in his second or third year will pop, when it would have happened in the minors. "Before," he continued, "when there wasn't such an emphasis on pitch counts, I think you kind of weeded that out. Then, guys would have surgery [in the minor leagues]. Then, they'd come back, and then, they'd get to the big leagues." Verlander, obviously, has not been one of those guys. He has certainly never been "coddled." He has never spent a day on a major league disabled list. And since 2007, he ranks No. 1 in baseball in games started, pitches thrown and pitches per start. In fact, only one pitcher in the whole sport (James Shields) is within 2,000 pitches of him in that span.
Tigers' Justin Verlander is anti-coddling
ESPN | Mar 21