Could New York Mets Have Foreseen Bobby Parnell's Injury?

By Paul Festa
Bobby Parnell
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Grim Elbow Reaper has struck again. This time, he’s used his scythe to cause a partial tear in the MCL of New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell. The question is, could the Mets have prevented the Reaper’s evil deed?

Parnell complained of forearm tightness following yesterday’s Opening Day loss to the Washington Nationals after he surrendered the tying run in the ninth inning. An MRI revealed the injury, and the Mets announced that they will attempt platelet-rich plasma treatment and a two-week rest period followed by a throwing program. The results of the throwing program would determine whether or not he needs Tommy John surgery.

On Monday, Parnell’s fastball sat in the 90-93 MPH range, occasionally touching 94. Throughout Spring Training, he was in the 88-92 range. Some Mets fans feel that this should have been an alert to the Mets front office that he had an arm injury. However, it’s not that black and white.

First, Parnell didn’t complain about pain his arm all spring. Second, it was perfectly reasonable to assume he was still building up strength following the neck surgery he underwent last year. Then, on Opening Day, his fastball velocity increased as the inning went on.

I read this as a sign that he was getting stronger. In fact, it was probably more a case of Parnell overthrowing, which may have led to the tear — but that’s all speculation.

People are also using their powers of hindsight to suggest the Mets should have started Parnell on the disabled list this season. If there was no apparent injury in Spring Training, would a five-MPH reduction on Parnell’s fastball be enough to justify a stint on the DL, especially since it was expected following his surgery?

There is much debate about what causes elbow ligament tears — an issue that seems to be occurring with greater frequency throughout the major leagues by the minute. It could be bad mechanics. It could be the proliferation of youth travel teams, which often subjects young pitchers to more work than they can handle. It could be the result of pitchers being “babied” in the minor leagues. It could simply be a result of throwing overhand.

So is there a way for major league teams to prevent ligament tears in the elbow? What the Mets and every other team in baseball needs to do is examine the bio-mechanics involved with pitching and get to the root cause of elbow injuries.

Tommy John surgery was a great invention to prolong pitchers’ careers, but now prevention is the key. Watching young pitcher after young pitcher go down with season-ending injuries is bad for baseball. It robs the game of star power and prevents it from being played at its highest level.

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