Alex CobbEarlier today I wrote about why there were some worrisome signs that Alex Cobb’s “forearm” injury was actually an elbow injury and that his slow return may in fact be an attempt to avoid Tommy John surgery. Now we have even more evidence.

[UPDATE] Topkin has now confirmed the tear and adds that Cobb will try to avoid surgery.

[EARLIER] Marc Topkin reports that “informed speculation” says that the latest MRI on Cobb’s elbow revealed a partial tear in his elbow ligament.

“Informed speculation is that a new more detailed MRI revealed a partial tear in his elbow ligament, which in the short term puts him on a program of rest and treatment and longer-term could lead to surgery.”

This leads to two important questions.

First, what exactly is “informed speculation”? It is not clear. However, it sounds like somebody within the Rays’ front office has heard a general summary of the MRI results but was not told the exact nature. For example, maybe they heard “it’s not good” without being told exactly what was “not good.”

This is uninformed speculation on my part as opposed to my educated speculation in the earlier post.

The second question is, why wait to have the surgery if there is indeed a tear? This one is more complicated. Surgery is not always needed. Sometimes they heal. In some cases, pitchers can even pitch with partial tears for a long time as Masahiro Tanaka had been doing.

Other pitchers opt for the surgery at the first hint of something going wrong.

The problem is, there is a growing concern that there are only so many pitches in a surgically-repaired elbow. That is, the younger a pitcher is when he has Tommy John surgery, the much more likely they are going to need a second one later one.

In other words, the decision to opt for surgery is not as simple as it may appear. But at this point, it is starting to seem inevitable.

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5 Comments

  1. Gus says:

    Topkin is in Boston. His informed speculation is most likely Hickey or Cash who are also in Boston.

    Tough call for Cobber, but every week he waits means another week later his return will be next season (it is almost a year to the day from when Moore walked off the mound in KC with a bum elbow). If he rehabs through June and then feels tightness in July, then almost all of next season is gone too. He's been rehabbing it since mid-March. At some point, you have to give in to the hard truth and get the surgery.

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  2. Dave L says:

    Yeah sounds like Cobb is in the denial/prayer stage on the road to Tommy John as Moore was briefly and Tanaka was extendedly.

    It appears the Rays org. strategy of basing a SP staff on continuous waves of 5 or 6 years of control of youthful flamethrowers in their first contract will more often than not include 16 to 20 months of TJohn arm maintainance.and lost productivity.

    I think we are just on the vertical incline of a bell curve of surgical solutions for overused adolescent pitchers which is no where near its peak. The peak will come about 10 years after a worldwide reform of youth baseball practices, if ever.

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    • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

      I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that Tommy Johns are up (and will continue to rise) as a result of over using youthful arms. Since the onset of baseball kids, college guys, and pros alike have been pitching as often and as many pitches as they can. For decades teams would just run their best pitcher until they couldn't go anymore and the net result was not a bunch of torn ligaments.

      I think the exact opposite is true!
      I think that babying their arms, and spacing out starts is the catalyst for the issues. If I lay on my couch for 4 days every week, then on day 5 every week I run out to the gym and do 100 reps of 200 pounds followed by a 5K I'm gonna hurt myself. That is the equivalent of what starting pitchers do. (I know they still toss the ball between starts, but the analogy still works.)

      How about this; you use more gasoline and cause more wear and tear on your car if you stomp on the gas for a while, then coast for a while, then stomp on the gas for a while, and so on. You use less gasoline and cause less wear and tear if you just maintain a constant speed. The stress on the starter's arm is the same.

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      • Dave L says:

        When I say youthful i mean childhood. Moore and likely Cobb will (did) undergo surgery regardless of what the Rays Org did since they acquired them.

        For decades, kids played baseball as a seasonal sport. Baseball was played in baseball season. Top athletes in high school who were destined to become MLB pitchers were 3 or 4 lettermen who didnt concentrate on baseball year round. Was any current Rays pitcher in High school a multi sport letterman? Jeez I am showing my age but in my day they would have been.

        Take Jeff Samar.....(you finish it) He was playing freaking Wideout at Notre Dame a few years ago. I bet my mortgage he will never need Tommy John. He was what pro atheletes used to be as youths.

        Their arms got a rest in the offseason. And thier bodies played other sports. There wasnt travelling teams to the extent of the past 20 years. In this century their is no offseason.

        Back in the day there werent all these exotic breaking pitches. They didnt exist. That puts tremendous wear and tear on adolescents developing ligament. Jim Kaat said he never threw one until he was 19.

        Additionally there was not an emphasis on the "Gun". Even ten + years ago the Devil Rays had only a couple pitchers at any one time who could get to 93+ consistantly. Now if u can't ur the exception. Balfour is washed up at 'only' 90mph.

        Nothing done by the time these guys get controlled by MLB can stop the process. The ticking ligament time bomb was started when the kids were in middle school and high school.

        Pro pitch counts in Rookie ball to MLB rookie seasons only mitigate when the guy will need surgery not if.

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  3. phil says:

    if Cobb has TJS say by mid -May would he not be back by Mid July of 2016?

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