In the grand hierarchy of pitcher injuries, elbow problems have gained a sort of resigned gloom these days. You know that a forearm or elbow twinge probably means UCL problems (unless very specifically specified otherwise, like in the case of Yordano Ventura earlier this year), and you know that that means Tommy John surgery. Tommy John surgery means a year off and some time struggling to regain form, but it also generally results in a return to form. Maybe not 100% of the time, necessarily, but more often than not these days.
Shoulder injuries, though, are terrifying. They’re terrifying not because they’re worse, just because they seem so uncertain. Some rotation cuff injuries are bad, some aren’t. Some labrum issues are unfixable, and some aren’t. Sometimes shoulder fatigue is just a young pitcher with a heavy workload who needs to rest. Sometimes it’s much more sinister.
Anyway, this is all, of course, in reference to the news from last night that Gerrit Cole will be scratched from his Monday start and was just now put on the disabled list with “shoulder fatigue.” As David Manel pointed out last night, Cole’s velocity didn’t look great at the end of his start against the Padres, which matches well with Clint Hurdle’s “red flags” observation. Hurdle was being pretty careful with his words in talking about the rotation last night (about why Jeff Locke might be pitching today and Charlie Morton might be pushed back, about Cole’s problems, about everything, really), but he did say that they would be careful with Cole. That makes me a little optimistic that maybe this is a precautionary sort of thing, but there’s just no way to tell until we have more information in our hands.
After all of the talk about the rotation and its problems this week, we don’t even need to wildly speculate about how long-term this injury might be. This is terrible news for the Pirates in the short-term, because they need all the rotation help they can get and Cole has been their best pitcher this year, even if he hasn’t quite been on par with what we might’ve expected from him pre-season. Losing at least two or three of his starts (and probably more, but again, who knows) is going to be really difficult for the Pirates to replace right now.