A poll of just about any major league team likely would reflect injuries, particularly to pitchers, as the No. 1 concern going into a given spring training.
Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake said that when spring training reboots this year — if it does — he can envision a slew of pitching injuries across the sport.
“I think there's definitely a possibility of it,” he said Wednesday on a conference call. “Just like any [sudden] start and stop throughout the season.”
And this stoppage certainly was sudden and far longer-lasting than anything that might occur in-season.
Big-league pitchers had put in roughly a month’s worth of work when MLB officially shut down spring training March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s anyone’s guess as to when it will restart, but pretty much everyone agrees it won’t be anytime soon.
Pitchers who were about three-fourths of the way geared up for the start of the regular season saw their preparation come to an abrupt end. Now they're in no-man’s land trying to figure out what to do.
Blake, hired last November to replace long-time pitching coach Larry Rothschild, has been in consistent contact with each of the Yankees' pitchers. Along with the coaching and training staff, he is monitoring their activity to best prepare them for a restart.
For now, each pitcher essentially is on his own throwing program with, of course, plenty of advice from Blake and the staff. But one overarching theme, he said, is that no pitcher should be throwing full-out bullpen sessions or anything that would be unnecessary stress on the arm.
“I don't think they need to be on a mound right now,” Blake said. “Given that we don't really know a timeline, there's a lot of other ways that we can keep them moving and keep their arm kind of putting some healthy stress on it. But I do think there are some guys who benefit from being on a slope and kind of keeping their delivery and rhythm, even if it's on a lower volume of throws and just kind of ramping the intensity up a little bit on the slope to keep the sequence and the delivery together. That’s what I advocated for most of our guys.”
Spring training in a normal year lasts six weeks, but no one in the game sees a second spring training, once it is given a go-ahead, lasting that long. Three weeks, and no more than four, are the figures getting the most traction.
As much uncertainty as there is for spring training II, the kind of regular season that could follow probably will be unlike any that’s come before. It could include a bevy of doubleheaders to cram in as many games as possible, runners placed at second in extra-inning contests, expanded rosters and a season that might extend into November or beyond.
Everything, industry insiders continue to say, is on the table. And Blake is attempting to navigate through it all.
“I think that’s something we’re all kind of wrestling with right now is what we should be advising them to do with no kind of timetable to work from,” he said. “Typically, whenever you're building a plan, you kind of start with the end in mind, whether that's the first day of spring training or the first day of the season. Right now, neither of those are open, so you’re kind of guessing more than anything.”