Verducci’s solution to the Tommy John scourge? Lower the mound.

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Almost all of us who talk about Tommy John surgery are not doctors and are not versed in biomechanics. So that should give you pretty fair warning that, for the most part, we’re just spittin’ into the wind when it comes to the “what should be done?” part of this conversation.

Personally I’ll defer to Dr. Andrews and people like him and take them for their word that most of the ligament damage in young pitchers happens well before they’ve hit the big leagues and likely happened well before they made it to pro ball. The development of kids’ muscles are outpacing the development of their ligaments, Andrews says, allowing them to put more stress on a UCL than it was designed to handle. That plus kids simply being overworked and pitching year-round in multiple leagues means that the TJ cake is already baked by the time we know who these dudes are.

Tom Verducci is in lock step with Andrews with all of that, so I’ll go along with his ideas on the topic to a certain degree. Against that backdrop he suggests doing something to limit the amount of strain on those still-developing UCLs: lower the mound:

What can be done? It’s time for Major League Baseball to lower the mound — and for the entire amateur market to follow its lead. When I took part in an MLB Network roundtable discussion last week on the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries, what struck me as most profound was the statement of fact by both Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek and biomechanics expert and former pitcher Tom House that the greater the slope of the mound the greater the forces that are applied to the arm. Reduce the height of the mound and you reduce the forces upon the arm.

Of course, given that he and Dr. Andrews both say that the problem really occurs before the guys get to the bigs, I don’t know that lowering the mound at the MLB level would do much to solve the problem and the byproducts of that — most likely dramatically increased offense — will end up putting the same sort of pressure to develop pitching that we saw in the 1990s and 2000s, the fruit of which is being harvested today. That in turn would place even more of a premium on hard-throwers and would incentivize kids and their parents to churn out even more impressive pitching phenoms, no matter the cost. So many unintended consequences. Like, say, kids throwing even gnarlier pitches their arms aren’t ready for. Leagues not really lowering the mounds because, hey, who’s gonna measure them?

I don’t know that you can crack that nut without Major League Baseball actually becoming a hands-on authority over youth baseball to one degree or another. The incentives are just too detached right now to ensure change. Youth coaches and parents are aimed at winning now and/or having their kids get drafted and paid at 18-21, and they don’t give much of a toss to what happens at 25. MLB has little if any interest in ensuring the well-being of their own minor leaguers, so how in the hell do we expect them to take any kind of ownership or exert any kind of authority over youth baseball?

I don’t think there are any solutions here. At least those that MLB can just impose via a rules change. This is a medical and a societal issue and those sorts of things aren’t amenable to quick fixes.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 2, Twins 1: Aaron Judge hit a solo homer and Jamie Garcia struck out nine and allowed only an unearned run in five and two-thirds. Things stayed close and got shaky in the eighth for New York as Dellin Betances hit the first batter he faced, uncorked a wild pitch and walked two more to load the bases with only one out. Aroldis Chapman came in and put out the fire, however, with two quick outs and stayed in for the ninth to complete the five-out save. That’s great and all, but if the Yankees are gonna do anything in October, they had better fix Betances first.

Red Sox 10, Orioles 8: Baltimore took an early 5-0 lead and then Dustin Pedroia had to leave after he bounced a ball off the plate on a check swing that came back up and smacked his nose, giving him a nasal contusion. It would get better, however, as the Sox rallied for a run that frame and six in the fifth inning. A Xander Bogaerts homer in the seventh would tie things up at eight and then Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run single in the 11th inning to give Boston the lead and, eventually, the game.  Mookie Betts had four RBI and Bogaerts wold score three times. The Orioles have lost 10 of 12.

Phillies 4, Dodgers 3: Clayton Kershaw had faced 103 batters in his career with bases loaded without allowing a grand slam. He would not make it 104. Aaron Altherr would come to the plate with the bases juiced in the sixth and he launched a long one to left to give the Phillies all of their runs and, it turned out, the only runs they’d need. This after L.A. led off the game with two home runs from their first two batters, the first being an inside-the-park number from Chris Taylor. Justin Turner would follow him with a conventional homer and Curtis Granderson added one in the top of the ninth, but it couldn’t make up for Altherr’s salami. Chase Utley returned to Philly. He went 0-for-2, but got a standing ovation from the Phaithful at Citizens Bank Park when he first came to bat. That’s nice to see.

Brewers 3, Pirates 0Brent Suter shut out Pittsburgh for five innings and four relievers took it the rest of the way. Ryan Braun homered and former Pirate Neil Walker knocked in a run. Travis Shaw‘s RBI single rounded out the scoring as Milwaukee pulled to within three and a half games of the idle Cubs in the NL Central and two games behind the idle Rockies for the final NL Wild Card.

Athletics 8, Tigers 3:  Matt Olson homered for his fourth straight game and Jed Lowrie drove in three runs. Raul Alcantara was pressed into service as an emergency starter after Jharel Cotton tweaked his groin just before game time. Some scary business late as Tigers reliever Jeff Ferrell left the game in the eighth inning after getting hit in the head by a 102.6 mph line drive off the bat of Ryon Healy. Amazingly, Ferrell seems to be OK. He never went down, walked off the field under his own power and was alert and responsive the entire time.

Marlins 13, Mets 1: Giancarlo Stanton hit his 55th homer and drove in four as the Marlins routed Matt Harvey and the Mets. Every Marlin starter had at least one hit. Marcell Ozuna had four hits, including a homer. Dee Gordon also had four, including a two-run triple. Ichiro had two hits and an RBI. Brian Anderson drove in two runs with a triple. The line on Harvey: seven runs on twelve hits in four innings. He’s been basically terrible since he came off the disabled list. It’ll be interesting to see what the Mets do with their former ace in the offseason.

Padres 4, Diamondbacks 2: The Padres scored three in the first on a Hunter Renfroe three-run homer and added one in the second on an Austin Hedges solo shot. That’s all they’d need as Luis Perdomo gave them a workmanlike five and a third, allowing a pair of RBI singles and nothing else, and four relievers shut out the Snakes the rest of the way.

Aaron Altherr hit the first ever grand slam off of Clayton Kershaw

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Entering Monday’s start against the Phillies, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had made 287 starts and pitched 1,917 innings over parts of 10 seasons. He’s done a lot of things, like winning a Cy Young Award, an MVP Award, winning 20 games, posting a sub-2.00 ERA. One thing he had never done is allow a grand slam.

Kershaw had loaded the bases 103 times coming into Monday’s action. Batters hit .193/.233/.250 off of him with 17 hits, of which only five went for extra bases (all doubles). In 2017, opposing hitters were 0-for-6 with five strikeouts with the bags packed.

Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr changed that in a big way. In the bottom of the sixth inning, trailing 2-0, the Phillies loaded the bases on a Ty Kelly walk, a Freddy Galvis single, and a Rhys Hoskins walk, bringing up Altherr. After running the count even at 1-1, Altherr blasted a grand slam into the second deck at Citizens Bank Park for the first grand slam ever hit off of Kershaw. According to Statcast, the ball left his bat at 107.6 MPH and went 418 feet.

Following the grand slam, Altherr improved his slash line to .276/.348/.521 along with 17 home runs, 55 RBI, and 51 runs scored in 362 plate appearances.

Kershaw was lifted after six innings. He gave up the four runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He still owns a sterling 17-3 record with a 2.26 ERA and a 194/30 K/BB ratio in 163 innings on the season.