Brandon Cumpton to Visit Dr. James Andrews Next Week

According to a press release, Brandon Cumpton will visit Dr. James Andrews next week after reporting pain in his elbow after his most recent live batting practice at Pirate City. He has already been seen by Pirates doctors. The Pirates will provide another update after Cumpton’s visit with Andrews next week.

Obviously this isn’t a good thing for Cumpton. A visit to Dr. James Andrews never is, and usually results in Tommy John surgery. That’s especially the case when the pitcher is reporting pain in his elbow. So the main concern here is that Cumpton sees a full recovery from whatever it is that is giving him pain.

As for how this impacts the Pirates’ depth, the main impact would come early in the season. Cumpton has been used the last two years as a depth starter for the rotation, and was one of the top options if the Pirates needed a guy early in 2015. The Triple-A rotation was projected to include Cumpton, Nick Kingham, Adrian Sampson, Clayton Richard, and Casey Sadler, with Jameson Taillon factoring into the mix when he returned from Tommy John surgery.

Assuming Cumpton is out, then this opens a spot in the Indianapolis rotation, and means that the early season depth options would be Richard, Sadler, and the loser of the Locke/Worley battle for the fifth starter’s job. As to who could take Cumpton’s spot in Triple-A, that could be any number of guys from the NRI list, and will probably be made known by Spring Training performances and how the Pirates stretch out each guy.

  • Speaking of injured players it appears that Hanrahan might have to undergo another Tommy John surgery, his career sure took a turn for the worse when he left Pittsburgh.

  • Tim,
    Doesn’t this put even more pressure on the Locke/Worley situation.
    I would assume that early in the season, Cumpton was our #7 starter?
    He does have some decent experience.

  • If I were to guess, any conversation about moving Locke or Worley would be very premature, at this point at least.

  • Ugh.

  • That’s nooooo good.

  • Doesn’t sound good….I know I have asked this question before, but never got an adequate or informed answer from anyone….why does it seem like so many pitchers need to have TJS over the past 10-15 years?

    Growing up watching baseball in the 70s and 80s, I don’t recall that many pitchers being injured – especially being out for 12-18 months at a time. And, back then, pitchers routinely threw complete games, well over 100 pitchers a game, and over 300 innings a year – year after year. What has changed?

    • Money, that is what happened. Players do not want to play hurt, it affects their stats, their stats are their money, playing in pain is not necessary any more.

    • Richard Mayhew
      March 3, 2015 10:43 am

      If a guy had an injury that today knocks a guy out for a year, he was done for his career… so you were seeing survivor bias and shorter effective player career spans

      • So, guys like Jenkins, Gibson, Seaver, Blyleven, Hunter, Marichal, Lolich, Palmer, McNally, Kaat, Carlton, Sutton, Ryan, Koosman, Perry, etc, etc, etc were all just the rare exceptions?

        • Richard Mayhew
          March 3, 2015 12:56 pm

          I don’t know if RARE is the correct word, but an above replacement career is longer today than in the 70s because previous career threatening injuries are now a one year injury with a high probability of returning back to the age adjusted decline curve. I think this will be most apparant at the slightly better than replacement but nothing special players like Cumpton. In the 70s, if he has elbow tightness, he’ll man up, try to pitch through the pain, and probably pitch himself out of the Bigs as he does not have control and/or velocity due to elbow issues. He might not retire due to injury, he may just get released to minor league oblivion.

          Now the Pirates projected #7 or #8 starter will be out for a year in the hope of salvaging him as a #5 starter or a competent long reliever at some point.

          In football analytics, there is a quip that health is a skill, so the best players of any generation also have the skill of being healthy.

          • Richard – all of the guys I listed pitched for 15-20 years as starting pitchers, often pitching over 300 innings per year, and were among the best pitchers (and the most highly paid) of their era. So, if any of them had elbow soreness, I would think it would either effect their performance or they would have had reason to shut it down and protect their careers.

            I would love to have someone who has been in the game for a long time – a scout or former player or both – comment on this. Someone who has spanned these eras and could really speak from experience and personal knowledge.

            We coddle these pitchers nowadays – with pitch counts, 5 man rotations, 7-8-9 inning relief specialists, etc. If a guy pitches 225-230 innings, he is considered now a workhorse. Complete games are rare. So, with all of these safeguards, why so many arm injuries?

        • Yes. Absolutely, without a doubt, those pitchers were the extreme exceptions.

          • That kind of defies the term “exception”, if there were that many – and I could have listed a lot more. Guys who pitched 12 years or more, had very few injuries if any, and were very effective or above average starters. I am sorry, it doesn’t make sense that they were just exceptions. That is too easy of an explanation.

            • I very much disagree.

              The guys you listed were not only exceptionally durable, they were exceptionally good.

              Baseball players, in general, are so much better at the game now than they were back then that your random big league inning eater back in that day wouldn’t even sniff the show if he were playing today.

              • really? So, you don’t think a guy like Larry Dierker or JR Richard – just to name two random examples – would not be successful in today’s game? If that is what you are asserting, please explain to me why?

                • Whoa, whoa, whoa…those aren’t “big league inning eater” types you’re talking about there. Richard was 6’8″ and threw hard as all hell, and Dierker was the number one guy in the Astros rotation for quite a few years. Those aren’t two random examples at all.

                  • Why does that matter….you are saying that the general pitcher from 70s and 80s do not compare to today’s pitchers….what are you basing that assertion on? We only know how hard everyone throws today because every stadium, scout, and idiot has a radar gun. Velocity was not emphasized and obsessed with about back then – because few had the ability to truly measure velocity and it was all about results. Today, people are almost quick to write off a pitcher if he can’t throw mid 90s.

                • I’ll defer to wkkortas, but maybe you’re objecting to how strong I worded that statement more than the point I intended to make. And that’s my fault.

                  But no, I still don’t believe all but the best arms of the 60s and 70s would be successful today because of how much stronger, faster, and better trained ball players are. Really isn’t much comparison. You’re seeing the classic “crafty lefty” weeded out of the game more and more to the point where all the junk in the world won’t allow you to break into a starting rotation unless you’re up around 90mph.

                  • and that is part of the problem – people think velocity is everything…it isn’t. AAA is littered with guys who throw mid 90s but are not successful in the majors. You have to know how to pitch, you have to have a breaking pitch, and you have to have good control. based on your assertion, Greg Maddux should have just been an organizational arm….

                    • That isn’t even close to what I asserted, but you’re clearly not interested in actually taking this discussion any further so I don’t see much point in continuing.

        • Well, yeah…but for each of those guys there’s a Gary Nolan, a Jim Maloney, a Dave Boswell, a Jim Hardin, and any number of other guys who had one or two top-shelf years and blew out their arms. There are probably other factors involved as well–the way pitchers are often over-used when young, kids wanting to throw 98 for the scouts in high school, the expectation that you go six or seven instead of the full nine, but I’d say they are exceptions, indeed.

        • I think pitchers that pitch forever and are extremely durable are exceptions and you kind of proved your argument. For every guy you mentioned there are hundreds of flame outs….and blyleven did hurt his arm and battled back and reinvented himself. Luckily, he still had one of the greatest curves ever after he no longer had the velocity.

    • For a surgery that was first done in the mid-70s it took time to gain acceptance. The protocols and procedure needed to be developed to where it became the preferred course of treatment.

      However, it is hard to argue against the idea that it has become too routine.

      • I guess that is the essence of my question….if all of these surgeries with extensive recovery and rehab are all really necessary, what has changed that so many guys are needing them?

        • Many sound reasons thrown out there by doctors dealing with usage and age, but I think the underlying factor is overall stress on the arm.

          Big league pitchers…heck, even pitchers at levels far lower than that…throw much closer to full effort for a much larger percentage of their pitches than they ever have before. Hitters are just too good to take pitches off anymore.

          • Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment…one could argue that back in the 60s and 70s, the pitchers had to be even better – because expansion had not yet watered down the talent level. teams like the Orioles, Reds, Giants, Tigers, A’s, etc had very difficult lineups from top to bottom…

            • Difficult, relative to the players of the day.

              I’d buy the watered down theory if humans, in general, were not much better at the sport now than they were then.

              • Why do you think and how do you insist that today’s players – who are not cheating – are better than those from 30-40 years ago? From a fundamentals standpoint, I would say the exact opposite. IMHO, today’s players strike out a lot more, make a lot more mental and physical errors, and are not as good at the details – like bunting, executing a hit and run, hitting cut off men, etc, etc.

                • Are players making more errors and mistakes or are those mistakes and errors just more visible due every game being televised and ubiquitous replay?

                  • I think they are making more mistakes and errors….physical error stats are not impacted by cameras….I would start there.

                    BTW, I have yet to see a RF who has as strong and accurate an arm as Clemente had – and he last played over 40 years ago.

                    • Personally I don’t know, the Pirates need a couple more winning seasons to hit double digits in my life time, so I don’t have the personal experience.

                      It is certainly possible for certain skills to erode, (tackling ability in the NFL) but I’m skeptical that the level of play is worse considering the amount of training and practice compared to the past.

                      I’m also fairly certain that Clemente had the most OF assists as RF ever and I don’t think is even that close, so just about everyone is going to look poor by comparison.

                • As some one who has been watching MLB since the early ‘ 50’s, think bigger, faster, stronger.

            • This is going to be long post.

              I think the effect of expansion watering down the talent level was fleeting and short-term. Baseball has steadily increased the size of its talent pool, while there has been declining African American participation, this has been negated by expansion into Latin America and Asia. Larger talent pool means a higher level of play.

              Next, like NMR has brought up, training methods, conditioning, and development are much improved. What this means is that players arrive more fully developed and you don’t have younger players taking several years to get acclimated to the majors, again leading to a higher level of play.

              For pitcher injuries, better training, conditioning means more velocity, and simply more velocity means increased forces acting on the body, leading to more frequent breakdowns. The best analogy I can think of is racing, a quarter of F1 cars breakdown over the course of a race which is only 200 miles.

              There is a whole other discussion about the more recent rapid rise in UCL reconstruction and pitchers having them at younger ages.

              But for why is there more injuries today than 30-40 years ago, I think the level of play is more competitive, players better condition to play at high levels, and there is now a surgery to treat something that there wasn’t an option for in the past.

              • I don’t agree with all your assertions in comparing the eras, but your last statement may actually be the real answer….there is now a surgical procedure to fix something that previously went untreated or was treated in non-surgical ways….

                • Understanding that the game is played at a more competitive level is crucial because it means that any reduction in performance due to injury is now more visible.

                  • What do you mean by a “more competitive level”?

                    • I’m mean the overall level of play is better and the spread in talent smaller.

                      Think about comparing the various minor league levels to the majors. In the low minors the spread in talent is much greater because you have future MLB players and guys who will be out of baseball in a year. Then as you climb through the minors the leagues become more competitive and the spread and talent gets smaller.

                      In a more competitive environment is harder to hide weakness.

                    • But, other than your opinion, how do you assert the level of play is better now vs. 30-40 years ago?

        • Look up anything Dr. James Andrews and others in his field have to say about the issue.

    • Luke sutton
      March 3, 2015 5:30 pm

      Guys also didnt throw 8 months out of the year from age 12+. While many factors can go with this issue, you cant ignore how pitchers in the modern era are throwing far more than previously. A kid who shows ability to pitch well will get used a good deal before he hits 16, often by people who really have no idea what to look for in a kids arm getting tired.

      So there are kids who enter HS with a decent amount of mileage on the arm, and it only ramps up from there. I knew kids that left HS headed to a big time college program that regularly had slight pain in the arm and didnt exactly take the best method to alleviating that issue.

      • You may have touched on a contributing factor….I wonder if the fact that kids are throwing curve balls and other breaking pitches at a very early age is a factor to elbow issues later on?

        • Some youth leagues have started focusing on that by restricting throwing curves until a certain age.

  • Lee Foo Young
    March 3, 2015 8:36 am

    Speaking of injured players, whatever happened to “McFearsome”?

  • Awful, awful timing for Cumpton. 2015 being his list option year, he’ll likely have to work his way back to the Major Leagues as a minor league free agent.

    • He has an option remaining this year. He won’t be using it, since he’ll likely spend the entire season on the 60-day DL. Unless the Pirates are able to option him to the minors as an injured player. I forget how that process works. I think there’s a certain date where you have to put a guy on the 60-day DL if he’s injured in camp.

      Basically the Pirates would have to decide whether they want to use an option, or pay Cumpton a major league salary and give him a year of service time to preserve that option and depth for future years.

      • Ah, many thanks, Tim. I should’ve known better than to think I understood the option business.

  • montemallin
    March 3, 2015 8:00 am

    sorry to see it. this guy always seemed to bring a lot of gumption, and always showed potential and grit. Hopeful for good news, and a swift and successful recovery

  • Scott Kliesen
    March 3, 2015 7:47 am

    Let’s hope he’s the last guy Pirates send to see Dr. Andrews this season.

    BTW, so much for the thought of trading Jeff Locke rather than use him as swing starter. Not that I ever thought Pirates would go that route.

  • And the injury bug begins… 🙁