Pitching's youth movement more trend than fluke

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — With four no-hitters, including two perfect games (and that’s not even counting Armando Galarraga’s perfecto robbery), this has definitely been the year of the pitcher.

Not only have we seen dominant performances on the mound, we’ve witnessed an incredible rise of talented young arms. These guys can not only bring the heat, but bring to the table a level of polish and maturity not often seen in pitchers with so little big league experience.

Case in point: the starters for Tuesday’s All-Star game. NL manager Charlie Manuel elected to go with Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez (15-1, 2.20 ERA), a 26-year-old right-hander who commands high-90s heat with unreal movement.

On the AL side, Joe Girardi went with Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price, who at 24 leads the American League in wins (12) and ERA (2.42), and has 100 strikeouts in 115.1 innings.

“It seems it’s the time of the pitchers now,” Girardi said, comparing the wave of young pitching to the golden era of shortstops 15 years ago. “These aren’t just guys with stuff. These are guys who know how to pitch at a young age.”

In addition to the starters, both rosters are filled with 26-and-under hurlers like Trevor Cahill, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum and Yovani Gallardo. But the remarkable thing about this group is not just that there are so many power arms, but that they have become polished so quickly.

“This is a good time for pitchers,” said Boston’s Lester, who is already 53-19 at age 26 and has a World Series-clinching victory on his resume from the 2007 World Series. “Development is getting better. They’re spending more time and money on those guys and giving them a chance to pitch at a younger age. Back in the day they probably wouldn’t have called all these guys up. They would have gone with a lot more veterans and kept paying those guys. And now teams are going with the younger guys with the salaries and all that. It’s just good to see the young guys come in and do well.”

Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, who is already a three-time All-Star at age 27, believes that a trend started with his draft class in 2004, a group that also includes fellow All-Stars Jered Weaver and Phil Hughes, as well as Tampa Bay Rays mainstay Jeff Niemann.

“I was definitely at the front of the wave,” he said. “It’s like fantasy football where one guy picks a kicker and then everybody else starts picking kickers. Guys are going with young strong, talented pitching with good arms, and that’s what teams have started developing.”

Verlander said that improved coaching, from the youth level on up through college and into the minor leagues, has helped pitchers be ready for the majors more quickly.

“To be honest with you, there’s money in it,” he said. “All these youth organizations are making money by putting together some good coaches and having parents send their kids out. I think it’s a win-win.”

But is the trend toward young pitching really here to stay, or is it simply a blip on the screen, part of the cyclical nature of the game? It depends on who you ask.

“Overall I think there is maybe a trend you can look at, but it’s too early to make any assumptions,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “But no doubt there are some real young power arms coming up in the American League that are prepared for a high level.”

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, though, who has witnessed the maturation of teammate Jimenez from Class-A ball on up, thinks there is a movement afoot.

“(Coaches) know more about pitching then they did back in the day, and that’s helped these guys,” Tulowitzki said. “They can come in and handle pressure situations at the big league level and be real polished at a real young age.

“I would say we’re going to see some really special pitchers every single year coming up to the major league level and making an impact. I’ll take my chances and say it’s going to happen every year.”

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Jeff Mathis has an avulsion fracture in his right hand

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Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis has an avulsion fracture in his right hand, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. As Piecoro explains, an avulsion fracture is when a ligament comes off of the bone and pulls fragments of bone with it.

Mathis is likely done for the season, but he wants to see hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan, per Piecoro. He suffered the injury on Monday when he was hit in the hand with a foul tip.

Mathis, 34, hit an uninspiring .213/.276/.322 in 200 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks, but was a plus defensively. Chris Iannetta and Chris Herrmann will handle catching duties with Mathis out for at least a while.

Dodgers place Cody Bellinger and Alex Wood on the 10-day disabled list

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The Dodgers announced on Tuesday that first baseman Cody Bellinger and starter Alex Wood were placed on the 10-day disabled list. Bellinger has a sprained right ankle and Wood is dealing with left SC joint inflammation. To take their spots on the roster, the Dodgers recalled pitchers Brock Stewart and Josh Ravin from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Bellinger, 22, has had an outstanding rookie season, batting .274/.356/.612 with 34 home runs and 79 RBI in 419 plate appearances. Fortunately, the Dodgers just got Adrian Gonzalez back from the DL, so their first base situation is already handled.

Wood, 26, has had a career year. He’s 14-1 with a 2.41 ERA and a 127/30 K/BB ratio over 123 1/3 innings. He’s been successful despite his velocity declining more and more with every passing month this season. The Dodgers’ rotation is already in disarray, so losing Wood hurts even more. On the bright side, Clayton Kershaw should be returning from the disabled list soon.