Starters Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow were all lost in the span of a week in mid-June. Drabek and Hutchison, as well as lefty reliever Luis Perez, were forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, which will keep them out of action until around the midway point of the 2013 season, provided their recovery goes according to plan. After that, it was reliever Jason Frasor who was forced to the disabled list in July with right forearm inflammation. Before any of them, closer Sergio Santos was sent to the DL in April, and months later, after rehab didn't work, underwent season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder.
Manager John Farrell doesn't believe the multitude of injuries suggest an overall cause for concern and said to imply the organization is doing something wrong in its development of players is unfair. He feels it is best to evaluate these things on a case-by-case basis because every pitcher is different.
"We can just look to our own pitchers and point to different reasons why they got hurt," Farrell said. "Some are arm-action related, some are delivery related. Some are, you take a young guy and put him in this environment and the stress level increases tenfold from what they have previously experienced.
"At Dunedin [Class A], you have 600 people versus 42,000 with a third deck and every pitch you throw goes to the back of your baseball card. There is quite a bit of difference."
Farrell believes a young starting pitcher should throw around 450-500 innings at the Minor League level before reaching the big leagues based on a number of factors. Hutchison only threw 234 2/3 Minor League innings before reaching the Majors.
"So they know their deliveries better, their bodies better," Farrell explained. "They've been in certain situations inside of a game ... that they begin to overthrow consistently -- that is where you see a lot of access wear and tear on a young pitcher.
"That grinding mentality that can cause their body to be ahead of their arm ever so slightly. It's a cumulative affect at that point. It builds up and things kind of get weak and that is where injuries take place."
Farrell stressed that the environment of the big leagues adds tremendous stress on young pitchers and believes it can lead to injury. He said a red flag can be a sudden increase in velocity, which is something Hutchison showed before he landed on the shelf. But Farrell said there were no indicators that the right-hander was injured.
"The one thing we can't do is replicate this environment, that's impossible," Farrell said.
"Every pitch is thrown in a high-stress state because that is how they are wired. The fine line is to tell them, 'Hey, back off.' Establishing rhythm and carrying that rhythm through a game is critical. Then the body works more efficiently, but a lot of times the mind doesn't allow that to happen and then that is where a guy pitches a little bit like a middle linebacker."