Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday morning: Pitchers goin' down

A number of pitching injuries from Saturday to discuss today.

The big one nationally is Stephen Strasburg (pictured), but being a Twins parochial I'll save the budding superstar for later.

A week ago today Ron Gardenhire pulled Kevin Slowey from a no-hitter in an attempt to avoid an arm injury. Saturday Slowey struggled to get outs — or even to keep the ball in the park — and reported a problem in his right triceps.

The prognosis isn't in, but he's out: 15-day DL for Slowey, and Nick Blackburn is back to the rotation.

Blackburn is not as talented as Slowey, but he does have a track record, and the reports on him in Triple A have been positive. He's rediscovered his sinker, we are told. Maybe so.

I regard Blackburn as a downgrade from Slowey, but not necessarily a massive one.

Ron Mahay is a less important piece of the puzzle, but a less-easily replaced one. With the earlier injury to Jose Mijares, the veteran LOOGY had become the Twins' top left-handed bullpen option.

But on Saturday Mahay injured his right shoulder when he fell while pursuing a ground ball. He's also already on the 15-day DL, with Anthony Slama recalled to fill his roster space. But Slama's right-handed. So is everybody else in the Minnesota bullpen, with the exception of Glen Perkins. And Perkins has not, in the past, demonstrated the skill set of a lefty-killer.

At least Mahay's injury is to his non-pitching arm.

OK, on to Strasburg. He threw one of those otherworldly pitches of his Saturday -- a 90-mph changeup? Really? -- grimaced and looked at his elbow. Out of the game he went, and let the speculation begin.

As with Slowey and Mahay, the specifics of the injury are unclear.

What I do know: It's not just amateur analysts (such as moi) suspicious of Strasburg's delivery. Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach -- who knows a thing or two about keeping pitchers healthy -- said a month ago he sees trouble ahead for the Washington pitcher.

I don't wish injuries on anybody, so I hope I'm wrong. But if he's having arm miseries when being babied along, this is not going to end well.

Poll stuff: Last week's question was about pulling Slowey from his no-hit bid. We had 57 responses, which I believe is the record for this blog. (Feel free to be either impressed or unimpressed.)

Fifty (87 percent) agreed with pulling him. Seven (13 percent) did not.

New poll up.

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