Rozner: Bubble Wrap won't save pitchers from all injuries

  • Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, left, speaks with pitcher Matt Shoemaker, second from right, as Shoemaker is helped off the field after sustaining an injury during a rundown play against the Oakland Athletics in the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Oakland, Calif.

    Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, left, speaks with pitcher Matt Shoemaker, second from right, as Shoemaker is helped off the field after sustaining an injury during a rundown play against the Oakland Athletics in the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Oakland, Calif.

 
 

The National League must adopt the designated hitter.

This is the ear-piercing wail any time a pitcher gets hurt while in the box or on the bases.

It came up again Opening Day at Wrigley Field two weeks ago when Jon Lester pulled a hamstring, though it was Lester who began a two-out, 6-run rally that led to victory at a time when the 2-7 Cubs were truly desperate for one.

"People get hurt. They're not China Dolls," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "They're athletes. Jon's a great athlete. You don't hold athletes back. Injuries happen. There's no way to prevent it completely.

"There's always a knee-jerk reaction and you're probably gonna want the DH in the National League now because of that. It's knee-jerk. Stop being knee-jerk.

"I do not think Jon getting hurt is the proper platform to start stumping for the DH in the National League."

Pitchers are baseball players and they have to make baseball plays, whether on the bases or elsewhere, witness the horrible plight of Toronto starter Matt Shoemaker, who's had some terrible luck the last few years.

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Shoemaker has spent all seven years of his career in the American League, batting just eight times, and yet has suffered some awful injuries, including a skull fracture in 2016 when he was hit in the head by a line drive.

Off to a terrific start in 2019, he was throwing a gem Saturday when a pitch in the dirt got Oakland's Matt Chapman dancing off the bag at first.

Toronto catcher Luke Maile fired to first baseman Rowdy Tellez and Chapman knew he was in trouble, so he tried to force an extended rundown.

Tellez threw to second baseman Eric Sogard and Chapman broke back to first. By this time, Shoemaker had busted off the mound and reached first, his job to cover the bag.

So far, and despite all of that physical activity, the pitcher was fine.

He took the throw from Sogard and chased Chapman toward second. The pitcher handled the rundown perfectly. He faked the throw and Chapman hit the brakes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As Shoemaker tagged him and avoided a collision, he stopped suddenly and spun away from the baserunner.

And blew out his ACL.

It was a nothing play. All he did was stop and alter his path slightly to avoid contact, which is what baseball is trying to legislate out of the game.

The commissioner doesn't want players having physical contact, and in this case there was none, except the tag.

Now, Shoemaker is done for the year with a knee injury, but no one is calling for an end to rundowns.

At least, not yet.

Must we stop play and have designated fielders to keep pitchers out of harm's way?

As Maddon said, these are athletes and sometimes injuries happen in sports, some of them inexplicable.

But every time a pitcher gets hurt running to first, or there's a pileup at second or home, there are calls for Bubble Wrap, yet there's no call for a designated fielder when a pitcher is injured covering first.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There's no outrage when a pitcher is drilled with a line drive or blows out his knee in a rundown.

You can't legislate injury out of sports.

Obviously, keeping pitchers out of the box and off the bases might prevent some injuries, so it's not a perfectly equitable argument, but the more salient point is it can happen at any time.

Pitchers have injured their arms on awkward throws after fielding a bunt down the third-base line, but so far Rob Manfred hasn't figured out how to outlaw bunts down the third-base line.

Give him time.

Most pitchers are still good athletes and they actually run more than position players on most days, which makes hamstring injuries in cold weather -- on the bases or sprinting off the mound -- as much bad luck as anything.

No one knows that better than Shoemaker.

"You can't put words to it," Shoemaker said, fighting back the tears. "Extremely frustrated, but at the same time I just have to stay positive, keep fighting, get this thing right and be back when it's ready to go.

"I've had bumps in the road before and I'm just going to fight through it."

The designation for this one was simple misfortune -- and no amount of Bubble Wrap could have prevented it.

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