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Rangers shouldn’t coddle pitchers because of Perez’s injury.

And the bad news keeps coming.

Bad enough that the Rangers just dropped two of three to the lowly Astros, becoming the first team this year to blow a lead of more than two runs to Houston. But that last game came on the heels of learning not just two more pitchers are headed to the shelf, but their season – or worse – appear over.

While Matt Harrison’s career is in jeopardy due to degenerative back issues, Martin Perez is dealing with what has sadly become a more too familiar issue. Yes, it’s the “Tommy John” injury. While Perez and the Rangers have not yet officially opted for surgery, even attempting to rehab the torn ligament would take up to 10 weeks.

But Perez’s case, even as he has now become the second Rangers pitcher this year and third since 2012 to deal with the now famous/infamous UCL injury, has perhaps become indicative of just what has happened with pitchers in recent years. At one point, the lefthander was looking even better than Yu Darvish, throwing 26 shutout innings in three straight starts. Then, 19 runs in his next three starts and on the shelf.

Thus will come the criticism of the Rangers overusing their prize lefthander, having him throw too many innings, even in such a short time.

Why? Why can’t Perez or pretty much any other pitcher do what used to be common in baseball?

Is there truth to what a certain exiled Hall of Famer has said about pitchers being coddled too much?

Clubs are getting more and more paranoid about pitch counts than ever. Yu was supposed to pitch in the series in Houston but was pushed back two days after throwing more than 120 pitches in his latest attempt at a no-hitter.

Pitch counts and innings limits are being forced more and more to supposedly “protect” pitchers, but there’s little evidence that it’s working. If anything, it’s getting worse; at the moment, a third of current Major League pitchers have had Tommy John surgery.

Then there’s the infamy of Stephen Strasberg. After coming back from Tommy John, the Washington phenom was placed on a strict 150-inning limit for 2012. Shutting him down in September might not have been so bad, since the Nationals were cruising to the National League East title. But when management refused to budge and ordered Strasberg out for the playoffs and the Nats promptly lost in the first round, not just fans but other observers felt the need to call foul.

“Had he pitched in the 2012 playoffs and built up arm strength, his 2013 season would’ve improved. The idea that pitch counts and innings limit help pitcher is idiotic and moronic at best,” writes Matthew Orso of Sports World News. “General Manager Mike Rizzo, along with other front office members, should never have put a innings limit on Strasburg. It is scientifically proven that pitchers who throw more will build up more arm strength. Throwing less and sporadically will only weaken a pitcher’s arm.”

It’s one thing for a writer to make this claim. It’s another for it to be made by someone who has a little experience pitching. Enter Nolan Ryan.

“It’s because pitchers simply don’t throw as much as we did,” the Hall of Famer told the New York Daily News. “That’s the real issue here. When I pitched, we pitched every fourth day and guys would pitch 300 innings and it wasn’t considered a big deal. If you don’t get on the mound and develop stamina, you’re risking injury.”

But what does he know? All he ever did was pitch in the majors for 27 years.

Heck, according to him he did suffer a partial ligament tear in 1988. Never had surgery on it. Scar tissue developed over the winter, and he ended up with two more 200-inning seasons and strikeout titles with the Rangers.

The man who bears the name of the operation would agree. Tommy John himself says that the year after being the first to have such surgery, he began throwing six days a week, and never missed a start due to injury for the next 13 years. He credits that to pitching coach Johnny Sain, who was the mentor to Leo Mazzone, who’s Atlanta pitching staffs in the 90s were famous for never breaking down.

Sadly, with Ryan exiled to Houston and Perez’s injury, it’s a good bet Jon Daniels and Rangers management will abandon the “no pitch count” mandate that Nolan supposedly had implemented and we will see more and more coddling of pitchers in Texas even as the old guard continues to give evidence it doesn’t work.

One can only hope that someone like Greg Maddux, a product of those Atlanta pitching staffs, can shake some sense into them.

Otherwise, Rangers fans may be forced to hear Tommy John’s name far too often in the coming years.


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