There’s been an epidemic that has taken the season from several pitchers across MLB, with the latest being Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. In either an extreme case of bad luck or a sign that somewhere along the lines of MLB, there’s an institutional flaw with training regiments, Tommy John surgeries have occurred at an alarming rate.
While Zack Greinke dealt with a calf strain in Spring Training, the right-hander has otherwise been healthy this season. Three of his fellow Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers have fallen victim to injuries — Josh Beckett, first with a thumb injury, then a troublesome calf/ankle, and Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, both with some form of inflammation.
Fortunately for the Dodgers, they haven’t lost a pitcher to Tommy John, though Chad Billingsley is still recovering from the elbow surgery he underwent last season. Greinke’s ability to avoid the surgery and daunting recovery may not be by accident or sheer luck, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports:
Several years ago, when it was still his best pitch, Greinke simply stopped throwing his slider so much.
While Greinke has limited the number of times he’ll throw the pitch per game, he hasn’t completely abandoned it and will use it in necessary situations:
In what I would deem a very important at-bat or a very important pitch, yes, I would throw the slider. If it takes eight sliders to get that guy out,” Greinke said, “I’m going to throw eight sliders.”
Ever the competitor, Greinke cutback on the pitch that helped win him the 2009 Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals. Greinke may have decreased the number of times he’ll throw a slider, his effectiveness hasn’t suffered the same fate.
After somewhat of a down year in 2010, where he finished with a 10-14 record, Greinke has reached at least 15 wins in every season since. Labeled the No. 2 starter on the Dodgers’ staff, Greinke has pitched as well as anybody this season, jumping out to a 5-0 record that now sits at 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA.
There doesn’t appear to be any formula to avoiding the dreaded torn ulnar collateral ligament, but the 30-year-old has made a sacrifice to increase his chances of avoiding injury and thus far, his body has held up its end of the bargain.
With five more years remaining on his contract, the Dodgers look for Greinke to continue as one half of a two-headed monster at the forefront of their pitching rotation.
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