MLB, players’ union in war of words as pitcher injuries spiral

Barely over a week into the regular season, MLB and the Players Association are battling over player injuries.

Amid a rash of significant arm injuries among pitchers, the MLBPA released a statement on Saturday night claiming the use of the pitch clock instituted in 2023 and altered this season was at fault.

“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,” union executive director Tony 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.”

Guardians pitcher Shane Bieber is out for the season as he needs Tommy John surgery. AP

The league quickly stated its disagreement in a separate message.

“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’s statement read, pointing to studies that have been done on the subject.

“Nobody wants to see pitchers get hurt in this game, which is why MLB is currently undergoing a significant comprehensive research study into the causes of this long-term increase, interviewing prominent medical experts across baseball which to date has been consistent with an independent analysis by Johns Hopkins University that found no evidence to support that the introduction of the pitch clock has increased injuries,’’ the statement continued.

“In fact, JHU found no evidence that pitchers who worked quickly in 2023 were more likely to sustain an injury than those who worked less quickly on average. JHU also found no evidence that pitchers who sped up their pace were more likely to sustain an injury than those who did not.”

Braves pitcher Spencer Strider was diagnosed with a UCL injury.
Braves pitcher Spencer Strider was diagnosed with a UCL injury. Getty Images

Instead, the league pointed to how hard pitchers are throwing as the cause for the spike, as opposed to the pace.

MLB instituted a pitch clock for the 2023 season set at 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with a baserunner.

The change resulted in a 24-minute reduction in the average time of a game.

This past offseason, the 11-man competition committee voted to cut the clock to 18 seconds with baserunners, which was opposed by the four players on the body.

The back-and-forth between the league and MLBPA came on the same day it was learned that the Yankees’ Jonathan Loaisiga, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Atlanta’s Spencer Strider had each suffered injuries to their UCL, with Loaisiga and Bieber set for season-ending surgeries.

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