Charting the rise of Tommy John surgeries

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Still reeling from the news about Jose Fernandez. I know a lot of pitchers get Tommy John surgery, but this thing in which an exciting young pitcher bursts on the scene and wows all of baseball for a while and then goes down just when we’re really starting to enjoy it all is really getting old. Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, Fernandez. There were others. There will be more.

Many more if this chart from Bill Petti — put together using data from Jon Roegele — is any suggestion. It shows the steep rise in Tommy John surgeries over the years. Sure, some of it is probably a function of doctors and teams being more willing to pull the trigger and have the surgery done where, a few years ago, the pitcher’s elbow may have been rehabbed instead. But the mainstreaming of TJ surgery is not the only factor. Guys are throwing harder, throwing longer when they’re kids and they’re paying the price for it in elbow ligaments.

Based on what James Andrews had to say about it last month, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot Major League Baseball can do about this, as the damage being done to pitchers’ elbows is largely being done before they ever sign their first pro contract.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.