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‘Unprecedented threat’: Players’ union calls out MLB pitch clock after series of pitcher injuries

NEW YORK (AP) — The head of the baseball players’ association thinks a shorter pitch clock has contributed to a series of pitcher injuries.

“Despite unanimous player opposition and significant concerns regarding health and safety, the commissioner’s office reduced the length of the pitch clock last December, just one season removed from imposing the most significant rule change in decades,” union executive director Tony Clark said Saturday night in a statement.

“Since then, our concerns about the health impacts of reduced recovery time have only intensified,” Clark said. “The league’s unwillingness thus far to acknowledge or study the effects of these profound changes is an unprecedented threat to our game and its most valuable asset — the players.”

Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, Atlanta’s Spencer Strider, the New York YankeesJonathan Loáisiga, Miami’s Eury Pérez and Oakland’s Trevor Gott are among the pitchers diagnosed with elbow injuries.

  • FILE – <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/miami/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Miami Marlins;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Miami Marlins</a> starting pitcher Eury Perez throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/ny-mets/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:New York Mets;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">New York Mets</a> Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Jupiter, Fla. Pérez will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2024 season, the team announced Thursday, April 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
  • <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/atlanta/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Atlanta Braves;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Atlanta Braves</a> pitcher Spencer Strider (99) delivers in the first inning of baseball game against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/arizona/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Arizona Diamondbacks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Arizona Diamondbacks</a> Friday, April 5, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
  • FILE – <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/cleveland/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Cleveland Guardians;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Cleveland Guardians</a> starting pitcher Shane Bieber walks back to the dugout after throwing against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/seattle/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Seattle Mariners;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Seattle Mariners</a> in a baseball game Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Seattle. Cleveland’s ace will have season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery, a major blow to the Guardians and the 2020 Cy Young winner, who had looked like his dominant self in two strong recent starts. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, File)
  • New York Yankees pitcher Jonathan Loáisiga throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning during a baseball game, Wednesday, April 3, 2024, in Phoenix. Loáisiga said he needs season-ending elbow surgery and will be sidelined for 10-to-12 months. The29-year-old right-hander, said he felt a pop in his elbow while throwing a changeup to Jorge Barrosa, his final batter in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 6-5, 11-inning win at Arizona. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

“This statement ignores the empirical evidence and much more significant long-term trend, over multiple decades, of velocity and spin increases that are highly correlated with arm injuries,” Major League Baseball said in a responding statement.

MLB said it is undergoing a research study into causes of increased injuries. It cited an analysis by Johns Hopkins that “found no evidence to support that the introduction of the pitch clock has increased injuries” and “no evidence that pitchers who worked quickly … or sped up their pace were more likely to sustain an injury than those who did not.”

Cleveland said Saturday that Bieber, the 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner, will have season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery to repair an injured right ulnar collateral ligament.

A few hours later, Atlanta said Strider had a damaged UCL and will be examined further by Texas Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister.

Loáisiga said Saturday he needs season-ending elbow surgery and will be sidelined for 10 to 12 months. A 29-year-old right-hander, Loáisiga said he felt a pop in his elbow while throwing a changeup to Jorge Barrosa, his final batter in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 6-5, 11-inning win at Arizona. A scan revealed a torn UCL.

Miami said Thursday that Pérez will have Tommy John surgery and miss the season. A day earlier, Gott had TJ surgery.

MLB instituted a pitch clock for the 2023 season set at 15 seconds with nobody on and 20 seconds when there was a baserunner. The average time of a nine-inning game dropped to 2 hours, 40 minutes, a 24-minute decrease to its shortest since 1985. The 11-man competition committee decided in December to cut the clock to 18 seconds with baserunners, a change that was opposed by the four players on the body.

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