Too much, toon soon (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 5, 2008 12:31PM; Updated: Tuesday February 5, 2008 2:55PM
Not every team showed such restraint, though. I have identified seven cases last year in which a team pushed a young pitcher at the major league level into the danger area of increased workload. Here they are, the seven young pitchers most at risk for injury or a significantly higher ERA in 2008, ranked according to greatest innings increase:
1. Ian Kennedy, Yankees, 23 (+61 IP)
Kennedy sailed through three minor league levels and reached the big leagues last year, his first full season in professional baseball. The Yankees allowed him to ring up 165 1/3 innings at age 22, after he threw 101 2/3 innings at USC in 2006 and 2 2/3 innings at Staten Island after signing. Kennedy was shut down late in September and left off the postseason roster because of what was described as mild back soreness.
Kennedy's path may recall how the Angels pushed Jared Weaver, another college stud, by 56 innings in 2006. Weaver started 2007 on the DL with shoulder soreness and saw his ERA rise by 1.45.
One caveat: Kennedy's jump is not as alarming as first blush indicates. The Yankees did give him an extra 30 1/3 "unofficial" innings of winter ball in 2006 (see Carmona below); not your high-stress big league innings, but still good incremental training. If you count that work, his jump of 30 2/3 innings barely pushes him into the danger zone.
2. Fausto Carmona, Indians, 23 (+56.1)
Cleveland did have Carmona start a few games in winter ball after the 2006 season in anticipation of his move from the bullpen into the rotation, innings that are not reflected in his YAE evaluation. But including the postseason Carmona logged 230 innings in 2007. Like Kevin Millwood in the 1999 World Series for Atlanta (another YAE victim), Carmona looked gassed at the end.
3. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies, 24 (+41 2/3)
The good news? Jimenez helped the Rockies get to their first World Series. The bad news? They pushed him to 201 innings and a seventh month of pitching to get there. Colorado must hope that his body type, which includes a strong lower half, will help minimize the effects of the workload.
4. Tom Gorzelanny, Pirates, 25 (+40 1/3)
I cringe when I see pitchers with non-contenders show up on this list. The Royals were guilty for years of pushing young pitchers without the excuse of a pennant race (Chris George, Jose Rosado, Runelvys Hernandez, etc.). Gorzelanny was 1-3 with a 5.77 ERA in September while throwing 639 pitches, his second-highest monthly total (by only five pitches) of the season. While Gorzelanny was passing his career high in innings, the Pirates let him throw 105, 118, 107, 107 and 117 pitches in meaningless consecutive September starts. Why?
5. Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays, 25 (+38 2/3)
The Jays pushed McGowan to 191 2/3 innings last year, a leap of 80 1/3 innings from 2006, when he pitched out of the bullpen. But it's not as bad as you might think. McGowan did throw 152 1/3 innings at age 21 in 2003. In fact, McGowan's risk factor is somewhat diminished by his age being on the outside of the cautionary window (he turns 26 in March) and by having already pitched eight seasons as a professional.
6. Chad Gaudin, Athletics, 24 (+36)
Gaudin has handle-with-care written all over him, because he's just 5-foot-11, 165 pounds but whips his fastball in the low to mid-90s. (I can vouch for it, having popped up against him in my week with the Blue Jays in 2005 spring training.) But the A's pushed him in September, when he made six starts (only one on extra rest) and was 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA. Now you can officially mark him down as the first YAE victim of the class of '07: He underwent surgery in December on his left hip and right foot.
7. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers, 21 (+33)
Good thing Milwaukee didn't make the playoffs. Pushing a 21-year-old pitcher to make a 33-inning jump to 188 total innings was risky enough; Gallardo didn't need another 20 or so innings on the arm. His jump is reminiscent of what the Twins did with Francisco Liriano in 2005: +34.2 at age 21. Liraino turned out to be the worst-case scenario for YAE: He blew out his elbow the next year.
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