Dodgers lefthander Alex Wood was scratched from his second spring start due to forearm tightness. Were there clues he was injured? What should happen next? What could this lead to?
Poor performance can be an indicator of pain or possible injury. Not ALWAYS, of course — often, a pitcher just has a bad day, or the batters have a good day. But a bad outing could indicate something is physically wrong.
In Wood’s case, yes, he did have a poor initial spring outing — he gave up five runs on four hits with two strikeouts in two innings against the Indians. Could anyone outside the organization have guessed it was due to an injury? No way, especially when one considers that Wood’s difficult first inning (when he allowed two two-run homeruns) was prolonged due to two errors by shortstop Cory Seager. Not to mention, it’s spring training, a time when pitchers are getting out the cobwebs of the winter and working on things rather than truly competing.
This was Wood’s quote after his first outing, taken from TrueBlueLA:
“It was good to be back out there finally for the first time, but it was one of those weird ones. I felt good, I felt my stuff was pretty good for the most part,” Wood recalled. “I made maybe one or two bad pitches, but I think the command will come as I keep getting out there. But overall I felt pretty good.”
And here is a quote from Wood after he was scratched from his start, from MLB.com:
“I would describe this as being overly cautious,” said Wood, who added he planned to make his next start in five days. “If this was in season, it wouldn’t be a conversation. I’m not concerned. If I was, I wouldn’t be making my next start. I had something similar two years ago at the end of the season, but this is extremely mild. We just want to get it out of there so it doesn’t become a real annoyance.”
A.K.A., Conspiracy Theories
Several Dodgers pitchers have had injury issues this spring — Brett Anderson (back surgery), Brandon McCarthy (elbow surgery), Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder surgery) and Frankie Montas (rib resection surgery) — will all start the season on the disabled list. Additionally, Scott Kazmir is suffering from a mysterious case of diminished velocity. Hence, it is in the Dodgers’ best interest to downplay any more medical issues that could make their pitching staff look weaker. Additionally, Wood is fighting for a rotation spot that he wants badly.
- Wood threw 50 pitches in his first outing.
- No MRI was ordered by the Dodgers; they didn’t deem it necessary
- Wood had Tommy John Surgery in 2009 while at University of Georgia
Wood — and the Dodgers — insist that skipping the start was being “overly cautious.” What we know is that forearm tightness is often a precursor to a UCL tear. It’s entirely possible that this is merely a case of being extra-careful — and that’s a good thing.
However, what’s concerning is that Wood has already blown out his elbow in the past, and his pitching mechanics look dangerous. In other words, what likely caused the UCL tear in ’09 — a mechanical flaw — probably was never fixed, and it’s now at least five years of undue stress on the “new” UCL.
We’ll keep a close eye on Wood, and hope this issue is as minor as everyone is saying. At the same time, it won’t be shocking to see the young lefthander suffer an elbow injury this year — and it won’t have anything to do with how many innings he pitches.
Here is a photo of Alex Wood’s follow through — at least one of the places in his delivery where we can identify a possible, dangerous flaw. It doesn’t look like he’s properly and safely releasing his elbow in this photo.