Dan Duquette on minor league pitching injuries: “It is a war of attrition”

When your top two pitching prospects have thrown a combined 22 innings this deep into the season, that has to be a concern for any organization. Both Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey have missed time this year for the Orioles.

Harvey had a PRP injection during a visit with Dr. James Andrews on May 18 and was shut down for the next six weeks after being diagnosed with a strained right flexor mass. He has just recently resumed a throwing program. Harvey was already recovering from a slight fracture in his right shin during spring training.

Bundy-Spring-Throws-White.jpgBundy has been dealing with shoulder inflammation since May 21, the day after his last start for Double-A Bowie. Dr. Andrews found evidence of calcification in the back of his right shoulder. The calcium accumulation should at some point no longer cause pain, but Bundy will need to wait until then to get back on the mound. For now, he is in rest mode, and it’s uncertain if he will pitch again this year. He was in the latter stages of his comeback from Tommy John surgery when this shoulder issue cropped up.

“A couple of our top prospects are down. I would say that is a rough year,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said.

While Bundy and Harvey are the organization’s two most highly rated pitching prospects, they are just part of a much longer list of O’s minor league pitchers who have dealt with injuries this year:

* Jesse Beal and Zeke McGranahan had Tommy John surgery.

* Branden Kline experienced right elbow discomfort and tenderness in the flexor mass, saw Dr. Andrews and underwent a PRP injection in late May. He has progressed well and should be throwing soon, if that has not happened already.

* Matt Hobgood missed time with shoulder soreness and underwent arthroscopic right shoulder surgery July 6 to remove a bone spur. The procedure will end his 2015 season.

* Derrick Bleeker has a UCL sprain. While no surgery is needed, he has not pitched since May 20.

* Bobby Bundy had right knee surgery May 18 and is out for the year.

* Sebastian Vader dealt with shoulder tightness and has not pitched since late May.

* Oliver Drake recently went on the Triple-A Norfolk DL with with a left torso strain.

* Steve Johnson missed time with a sore oblique muscle, but is now back pitching.

This is by no means a complete list, but illustrates that it has indeed been a rough year for O’s pitchers on the farm.

Is a lengthy list like this producing concern for Duquette?

“That is always a concern,” he said of pitching injuries “Not just for the Orioles, but across the industry. How do you staff and develop your pitching so that the pitchers stay healthy and make their way to the big leagues? Because it is a war of attrition.

“We are working real hard on trying to identify what are the best training methods. We try to prescreen for injuries before the player signs. We monitor their workload carefully. We have significant video resources to follow up on their deliveries. So it is just something you have to monitor very closely. It is a big investment for every team.”

Has the injury situation this year led the Orioles to make any changes in how they train and/or develop their pitchers?

“That is an ongoing process,” Duquette said.

While not getting into specifics, Duquette said the rash of pitching injuries led to some changes in how the Orioles scouted pitchers for the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.

“I would say yes (there were changes). We are always looking at it. We look at that from as many different angles as we can,” he said.

Have any conclusions been reached?

“Yeah, we need more good pitchers,” Duquette said. “That is my conclusion. We need more. The fact of the matter is the human body was not made to throw the ball overhand. And not 115 times at 95 mph every five days. So each club has to deal with that in such a way that makes sense for them.”

Duquette did say he is satisfied with how the organization develops minor league pitchers. He said the biomechanical analysis that the Orioles have used for several seasons is one way the organization is looking to provide help for its pitchers and to target a potential problem before it happens.

“It helps in a number of different ways. It helps the athlete understand his delivery. It helps the organization to understand where that pitcher’s delivery is in relation to accomplished, successful major league pitchers and what adjustments are indicated for the player to have the skills of a major leaguer,” Duquette said.

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