The Pittsburgh Pirates have done a good job of preserving pitcher health and avoiding major injuries in the minors. A lot of this is due to their conservative approach with pitch counts and innings limits, especially at the lower levels. Despite this, it’s impossible to totally avoid injuries with pitchers, as we saw this year. In Spring Training, top prospects Jameson Taillon and Clay Holmes both went down with Tommy John surgery. Both pitchers have since been rehabbing, and are now making their way back with their throwing programs.
“All very positive, all on course,” Huntington said of the injured pitchers. “Jameson has begun the throwing program which is a long and drawn out process.”
We’ve detailed a bit of that process in a few updates with Taillon, noting that he started throwing at the end of July, then expanded to throwing from 75 feet at the start of this month. Even with that progress, he still has a long road to go. Pitchers don’t usually start throwing until four months after the surgery, and that leaves about eight months until they’ve fully returned to the mound. For Taillon, as well as Clay Holmes, that timeline puts them on pace to return at the start of the 2015 season. Huntington said the two are currently on course for next year, while noting the limitations of the surgery.
“Tommy John does not make you better,” Huntington added. “It’s a long and arduous road and if we can get that in the mind of coaches and parents of 14-17 year olds, you want to avoid it at all costs. But if you get it, then you work hard to come through it, as Jameson and Clay Holmes and some of the other guys are doing that, and they’re on course for next year.”
In most cases, a pitcher takes a year to return to where he was at before the injury. That’s the hope with Taillon and Holmes. Taillon has a more immediate impact to the Pirates, since a typical return from surgery would put him on pace to join the big league club next year. Holmes is more of a long-term option. He would have started in Bradenton this year, and will likely go back to that level next year. Prior to the injury, he had the upside of a middle of the rotation pitcher who could eat 200 innings a year.
The big news with both pitchers will come closer to Spring Training, as that will give a better indication of how close they are to a full return on schedule.