It is difficult to know whether starting the Major League Baseball season in Australia is the reason behind the injuries that the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks have endured. But the epidemic of elbow and shoulder injuries in baseball is undeniable, and baseball needs to do everything in its power to protect its players, even if it means sacrificing global branding.
An unnamed Dodgers player told Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times that he believes the trip played a significant role in early injuries to teammates Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson. The early start to the season combined with the team’s playoff run last year meant less time to recuperate during the offseason and less time to prepare going into this season.
In order to accommodate the trip, teams’ spring training camps were cut a few days short, with both teams playing only 19 exhibition games in the Arizona Cactus League.
“I would love for a starter to have a minimum of five starts in spring training games,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told Hernandez.
Kershaw only got four starts before heading down to Australia. He ended up starting the season on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his left shoulder and is expected to return sometime in early May.
Relief pitcher Brian Wilson said he felt underprepared going into the season and was overthrowing his pitches in his fourth and final Cactus League appearance, rushing to get ready for Opening Day. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with elbow discomfort two days after blowing a save on March 30. With two Tommy John surgeries already under his belt, Wilson downplayed his injury and eventually returned from the disabled list on April 15.
The Diamondbacks began the season with an unprecedented 1-7 start and currently have lost one more game than the Detroit Tigers have played all season. (The Diamondbacks are 5-16 while the Tigers are 9-6). They have lost their number one starter, Patrick Corbin, and setup man David Hernandez to likely season-ending elbow surgeries. Corbin’s injury preceded the trip to Australia, but questions of whether the shortened spring itinerary had any effect on the injury have been raised.
Throwing a baseball at 90 mph or more is not a natural motion for a person. Therefore, training and proper rehabilitation are crucial to maintaining not only the pitcher’s health, but also the lofty investment these teams make in these pitchers. Material harm has already been incurred by both clubs and multiple players.
When the MLB schedules a series a week before the usual start time, pitchers have to hasten their preparation, which leads to even more wear and tear on their arms. Only time will tell if there are any lasting effects for the aforementioned players.
Brittany Yu is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.