Is Aroldis Chapman pitching hurt? Is he already being overworked? Cincinnati Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez seems to be concerned.
During the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat to the San Diego Padres, Hernandez called pitching coach Bryan Price and trainer Paul Lessard to the mound after noticing the flamethrower’s velocity was way down.
This is what Hernandez told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“Yesterday, he threw what 93, 94″,” Hernandez said. “Then today, he’s throwing 91. He’s throws almost 100 over every pitch. Now, he can’t get up to 93. There’s got to be something. You can’t lose it in one day.”
A guy who threw a record 105-mph fastball last season suddenly unable to reach 93? Cue the alarm bells, right? Maybe not.
Chapman faced just two batters, allowing a walk and committing an error. He was removed after he recorded his lone out. But manager Dusty Baker said that was just a precaution, stating “he said he was OK, but that’s Cuban baseball.”
Hernandez also chalked it up to a young guy trying to be tough and pitch through pain and fatigue. He said he spoke to the 23-year-old pitcher, who was pitching for the fourth time in five days, and advised him that it can be better to miss a couple days then suffer an injury that puts him out of action for a longer stretch of time.
“He’s got a lot of stress …,” Hernandez told Fay, “I think he’s going to be OK.”
Reds fans certainly hope so.
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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.