Posted: Friday June 29, 2012 12:11PM ; Updated: Friday June 29, 2012 9:20PM
Tom Verducci
Tom Verducci>THREE STRIKES

Hudson's injury latest sign of tough year for young pitchers

Story Highlights

Daniel Hudson, 25, of the Arizona Diamondbacks needs Tommy John surgery

No managers have been fired so far and none are even on the hot seat

Yasel Puig latest sign of Los Angeles Dodgers' approach under new ownership

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Daniel Hudson of the Arizona Diamondbacks
Daniel Hudson will be out the rest of this season and likely part of 2013 after needing Tommy John surgery.
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

The news was terrible for Arizona on pitcher Daniel Hudson: After a breakout season in 2011, Hudson needs Tommy John surgery. He never was right this season, pitching to a 7.35 ERA in nine starts and plagued by shoulder trouble before the elbow blew. Pitchers break down and no one can know for certain why, but Hudson's blowout adds to an awful track record for the 14 young pitchers I tagged with a red flag before the season because of their increased innings workload last year.

(Hudson, 25, increased his innings by 38 2/3 from 2010 to 2011. Anything greater than 30 for a 25-and-under pitcher bears watching.)

Of the 14 pitchers I red-flagged before the season, 13 have been hurt, are in the minors or are pitching to an ERA at least half a run higher than last year. Matt Harrison of Texas is the only pitcher of the 14 who has made it through half a season healthy and throwing well -- and as a guy who turned 26 in the second half of last year, Harrison is on the far outside of the risk pool.

Here is the breakdown halfway through the "year after" season for the 14 pitchers red-flagged:

Hurt: 6 (Hudson, Jeremy Hellickson, Derek Holland, Jaime Garcia, Michael Pineda, Eric Surkamp)

In minors: 2 (Chris Schwinden, Zach Stewart)

ERA +0.50: 5 (Dylan Axelrod, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Leake, Nathan Eovaldi, Liam Hendriks)

Pitching well: 1 (Harrison)

The 14 pitchers combined for 116 major league wins last year. This year? About halfway through the season they have only 34 wins. The attrition is so severe that six of them (43 percent) have no wins (Axelrod, Hendriks, Surkamp, Schwinden, Eovaldi and Pineda).

Innings limits for young pitchers have become an industry standard; I've just been tracking the conventional wisdom of experts in the field. It's the reason why the Nationals will shut down ace Stephen Strasburg around Labor Day even with Washington looking at the possibility of the district's first postseason in 79 years. You can argue the merits of it and you can write off injuries and regressions as part of normal career patterns. But what's not in question is that baseball as an industry, largely on medical advice that links overuse with injuries, has determined that increasing innings too much too soon increases the risk factor for pitchers. The evidence this year will underscore the clubs' concerns.

Managers surviving longer than usual

Maybe the second wild card is good for major league managers. The job hasn't been this secure in years.

All 30 managers are likely to make it to the All-Star break for the first time since 2006. By this time last year, three managers already were replaced: Bob Geren in Oakland, Edwin Rodriguez in Florida and Jim Riggleman in Washington. It marked the fifth straight year at least three managers bit the dust before the All-Star break.

There is no sign that any of the 30 managers are on a hot seat. The team with the worst record in baseball, the Cubs, just hired their manager, Dale Sveum, during the offseason. The next worst, San Diego, is low on talent and has a respected manager in place, Bud Black. The Rockies (Jim Tracy) and Twins (Ron Gardenhire) have been disappointments, but their managers are signed to multi-year deals and are favored by ownership.

Why the job security all of a sudden? Part of it could be that the past two seasons have brought so much churn that baseball was due for a settled period. But the addition of that second wild card might be contributing to the security as well. Entering play today 21 of the 30 teams in baseball were within five games of a playoff spot. We thought the second wild card might be a benefit for fans. Who knew it might also buy time for managers?

Dodgers charting new course

The Dodgers stunned baseball people and officially hung their "Under New Ownership" shingle by forking over $42 million over seven years to Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. Beginning July 2, clubs will have just a $2.9 million budget to sign international players without three years of pro experience in top leagues. (Puig does not have three years of pro experience in Cuba). So the signing was a matter of urgency for Puig, 21.

For the Dodgers, it is an unmistakable symbol that the days are over when Frank McCourt rolled back investments in international players to almost nothing. According to Baseball America, the Dodgers ranked last in baseball in international investments for each of the past two years, handing out a total of less than $500,000 in bonuses. Last month, under the Guggenheim ownership group, the Dodgers said they were in the process of signing 20 Latin American players in advance of the new CBA rules regarding international bonus money.

The next litmus test for the Dodgers owners is how they approach the trade deadline. Under McCourt in recent years, GM Ned Colletti was under orders that any trade would have to be payroll neutral at worst -- as much money going out as coming in. And the Dodgers, sinking fast without Matt Kemp, are going to need some reinforcements. After a 30-13 start with the help of a friendly schedule, Los Angeles is 13-21 while scoring just 15 runs in its past 10 games. Reports that Puig could contribute in the major leagues this year sound wildly optimistic.

And the bill for that soft schedule will come due in the second half. The Dodgers are scheduled to play 23 games in the Eastern time zone this year. They have yet to play 19 of them.

 
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