Pitch clock to blame for pitchers’ elbow injuries, MLBPA exec says

Major League Baseball’s two top pitching stars – the Cleveland Guardians’ Shane Bieber and the Atlanta Braves’ Spencer Strider – were among those who suffered elbow injuries within the first few days of the season.

Not to mention, the New York Yankees’ Jonathan Loaisiga, the Miami Marlins’ Eury Perez and the Oakland Athletics’ Trevor Gott also suffered elbow injuries. Gerrit Cole was forced to miss the first few months of the season with an elbow problem as well.

Spencer Strider vs Diamondbacks

Braves pitcher Spencer Strider delivers in the first inning of the Arizona Diamondbacks game, Friday, April 5, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, put the onus on the pitch clock.

“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,” Clark said in a statement.

“Since then, our concerns about the health impacts of reduced recovery time have only intensified. 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.”

Shane Bieber vs Mariners

Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber walks back to the dugout after throwing against the Mariners, Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, File)


MLB cited analysis by Johns Hopkins in its response to the MLBPA. It said the researchers “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.”

“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,” MLB added.

Cedric Mullins on deck

Cedric Mullins of the Orioles stands next to the pitch clock before batting against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Aug. 29, 2023, in Baltimore. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The pitch clock was instituted before the 2023 season. Pitchers had 15 seconds to fire the ball in with nobody on base and 20 seconds when there’s a base runner. The 20 seconds was reduced to 18 by the league’s competition committee, which the union strongly opposed.

MLB hoped it would help shorten games and it did. A nine-inning game’s average time dropped to 2 hours and 40 minutes – a 24-minute decrease.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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