Major League Baseball has a huge issue on its hands, as pitchers are going down with serious injuries at an alarming rate. No one has an answer for the crazy pandemic, but there certainly are some interesting suggestions surfacing across the league.
Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez recently became the 18th pitcher this year to require Tommy John surgery, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for the rash of injuries. One suggestion being kicked around entails lowering the mound, but Boston Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves feels there’s a better solution.
“You have to stop shrinking the strike zone,” Nieves recently told The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “It has to be expanded. It’s incredible what you’re asking of pitchers nowadays. You expect them to throw the baseball into this tiny box. Do you know how much stress that puts on a pitcher’s arm? Just remembering when I pitched, the strike zone is so tiny compared to back then. It’s impossible to think that you make a pitcher hit that tiny box and not have it affect the health of a pitcher over time.”
Of course, there are other variables in play. For instance, many experts feel that young pitchers aren’t getting enough rest because of their demanding schedule en route to the majors. Lowering the mound is something that has been discussed, however, as it seemingly would reduce stress on the elbow and shoulder by reducing some of the downward force with which each pitch is delivered.
A lower mound likely would mean more runs, as pitches would flatten to a certain extent, leaving the hitter in a more comfortable place. And while a lower mound could be safer, Nieves feels like such a change still would have negative physical implications.
“Of course there’s more torque on the back and therefore the shoulder has more stress on it with the higher mound,” Nieves told Cafardo, “but I think if you lowered it, you’d have guys trying to throw even harder and therefore hurting themselves even more.”
In short, this truly is a situation that’s puzzling for experts, trainers, doctors, coaches, players and fans, alike.
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