Pitch clock to blame for pitchers' elbow injuries, MLBPA official says

Major League Baseball's two best pitchers — Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians and Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves — were among those who suffered elbow injuries during the opening days of the season.

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

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Spencer Strider vs. Diamondbacks

Braves pitcher Spencer Strider delivers during 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 blame on the pitch clock.

“Despite unanimous player opposition and significant health and safety concerns, the commissioner's office reduced the length of the pitch clock last December, just one season away from imposing the most recent rule change important for decades,” Clark said in a statement.

“Since then, our concerns about the health impacts of reduced recovery time have only intensified. The league's reluctance thus far to acknowledge or study the effects of these profound changes constitutes a unprecedented threat to our game and its most valuable asset: the players.”

Shane Bieber vs. the Sailors

Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber returns to the dugout after pitching against the Mariners, Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, file)

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MLB cited the Johns Hopkins analysis in its response to the MLBPA. He said researchers “found no evidence that the introduction of the pitching clock increased injuries” and “no evidence that pitchers who worked quickly…or increased their pace were more likely to suffer injury than those who did not.”

“This statement ignores the empirical evidence and the much more significant, multi-decade long-term trend of increased velocity and spin that are strongly correlated with arm injuries,” MLB added.

Cédric Mullins on deck

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

The pitch clock was instituted before the 2023 season. Pitchers had 15 seconds to throw the ball without anyone on base and 20 seconds when there was a base runner. The 20 seconds were reduced to 18 by the league's competitions committee, something the union strongly opposed.

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MLB hoped this would help shorten games and it did. The average length of a nine-inning game fell to 2 hours and 40 minutes, a decrease of 24 minutes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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