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Apr 6, 2024 10:21 pm

MLBPA chief eyes use of pitch clock amid pitcher injuries

Shane Bieber

Amid a rash of major league pitchers being sidelined with elbow injuries, the head of the MLB Players Association is pointing at the sport’s latest rule to shorten the pitch-clock window going into this season.

Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber was among the latest to be announced as needing surgery, joining Miami’s Eury Perez and Oakland’s Trevor Gott. Also, the Braves are awaiting word on the extent of the elbow injury sustained by star Spencer Strider.

Tony Clark, the players union’s executive director, said in a statement that “our concerns about the health impacts of reduced recovery time have only intensified” in the second season of using the pitch clock to speed up the pace of games.

“Despite unanimous player opposition and significant concerns regarding health and safety, the commissioner’s office reduced the length of the pitch clock last December, just one season removed from imposing the most significant rule change in decades,” Clark said.

“The league’s unwillingness thus far to acknowledge or study the effects of these profound changes is an unprecedented threat to our game and its most valuable asset — the players,” Clark added.

MLB countered the statement by saying it is undergoing a research study into what might be causing the increased injuries.

Further, it said injuries to pitchers have been on the rise for three decades, and cited research from Johns Hopkins that “found no evidence to support that the introduction of the pitch clock has increased injuries” and “no evidence that pitchers who worked quickly … or sped up their pace were more likely to sustain an injury than those who did not.”

The Athletic reported last month that MLB hopes to take the results of its findings about pitchers’ injuries and establish a task force to help provide guidance to teams.

Noted orthopedic surgeon Keith Meister to the Athletic: “What I’ve talked to MLB about is, look, we have all this data on performance. We also have all this data on health. We have to marry these two metrics.”

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you to never throw a sweeper or never throw a hard changeup. But at some point, you have to say, ‘OK, when we see a pitcher throwing that pitch more than 15 percent of the time, the likelihood of him having an injury to his shoulder or elbow goes (up), whatever, tenfold.’ ”

In 2023, pitchers had 15 seconds to make their pitch to the plate with the bases empty and 20 seconds with at least one baserunner. Going into this season, the timing with a baserunner was lessened to 18 seconds.

–Field Level Media

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