Liriano and Johnson: A tale of two surgeries

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As a Twins fan Francisco Liriano has made me well aware that coming
back as strong as ever from Tommy John elbow surgery is far from
guaranteed, but Josh Johnson of the Marlins is proving to be one of the
operation’s biggest success stories.

Johnson tossed a complete-game Sunday against the Blue Jays and is
tied for the NL lead with a dozen Quality Starts in 14 tries. He’s now
13-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts since returning from Tommy John
surgery in the middle of last season and has basically improved his
performance across the board since going under the knife:

                  IP    SO/9     BB/9     GB/FB      MPH
Pre-Surgery 169 7.6 4.1 1.35 91.8
Post-Surgery 185 7.8 2.4 1.65 94.2

Johnson was a really good pitcher before the surgery, nearly winning
the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, but since coming back
his strikeouts are up slightly, his walks are down 40 percent, he’s
inducing 20 percent more ground balls, and his fastball has picked up
another 2-3 miles per hour. Meanwhile, take a look at the same pre- and
post-surgery comparison for Liriano:

                  IP    SO/9     BB/9     GB/FB      MPH
Pre-Surgery 145 11.0 2.4 2.24 94.8
Post-Surgery 147 7.9 4.1 1.01 91.2

Liriano also nearly won the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie and
was basically as good as a starting pitcher can be, going 11-3 with a
2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings while inducing over two
ground balls for every fly ball. However, since the surgery his
strikeouts are down 30 percent, his walks are up 70 percent, he’s
inducing as many fly balls as ground balls, and his fastball velocity
has dropped 3-4 mph.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.