Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Japanese Pitchers in MLB & Tommy John Surgeries

The talk over the last three spring training camps for the New York Yankees has been either Alex Rodriguez or the newest Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. Three springs ago it was the arrival of Tanaka and last spring all the talk was surrounded around Tanaka's elbow. Tanaka had been diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament the season before and has rested and rehabbed the injury following doctors orders rather than undergoing Tommy John surgery. Tanaka's ligament has shown no change either way and enters this spring with all the attention still on his elbow. Some are worried he still needs Tommy John surgery and others are concerned about a routine surgery on the elbow to remove bone spurs, either way all eyes are still on the elbow. Tanaka is not the first Japanese-born pitcher to have elbow problems though and we will showcase a few of them for you this morning.

Most recently we watched Texas Rangers ace pitcher Yu Darvish undergo the ulnar collateral ligament surgery. Darvish will miss the beginning of the 2016 season and missed the 2015 season with the surgery.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyuji Fujikawa also went through various elbow issues and Tommy John surgeries after coming over from the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization to the United States and the Major Leagues.

It's not just the Major Leagues and their bigger mounds, smaller balls and more frequent pitching schedule that's to blame though in my opinion. Tokyo Yakult Swallows ace Shohei Tateyama missed the entire 2014 season with the surgery while Kazuki Yoshimi of the Chunichi Dragons also had his UCL replaced causing him to miss the 2014 season.

Why did we do this? No reason, really. This is no guarantee that Tanaka will ever need the Tommy John surgery and there is no guarantee that the next big thing to come out of Japan will either. It's strictly for information purposes. There are far more American born pitchers that require the surgery and there have been pitchers that have survived by resting and rehabbing their ligament, Ervin Santana for example who never had the surgery, leaving a glimmer of hope for Tanaka and the Yankees.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)