When objectively evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 roster for potential strengths and weaknesses, the bullpen would have to be listed on the “strengths” side of the ledger.
The addition of a few talented veterans this off-season to a solid returning group and some growing young arms has the pen looking stronger and deeper than it has in years.
Now less than two weeks into 2019 spring training that bullpen depth will begin to be tested. It’s first member has gone down due to injury. Tommy Hunter will be shut down for in indeterminate amount of time with a Grade 1 strain of the flexor muscle in his right pitching arm.
The flexor mass is a collection of muscles and tendons which come together in the forearm near the elbow. They function by allowing you to turn and flex your wrist. The injury as it affects a pitcher such as Hunter is described as follows by Robert G. Najarian, MD with Inova:
“With flexor mass strains, pitchers usually don’t feel pain until the follow-through phase of the pitch. That’s when you need the flexor mass to snap the wrist to get the ball in the strike zone. When the flexor mass is injured, the ball often ends high and pitchers can have problems locating their pitch.”
In general, Najarian states, the injury is treated with rest, anti-inflammatories, and a strength/rehabilitation program. Some players are out for just two weeks. For others the recovery can take as long as six to eight weeks. It all depends upon the severity of the injury and the individual player’s ability to recuperate.
The hope is that the Phillies and Hunter caught the injury early enough that this method of recovery will do the job. If such an injury is allowed to go untreated for too long, it could result in ligament damage and possibly the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Hunter was signed by the Phillies as a free agent in December 2017 to a two-year, $18 million contract. The 32-year-old, 11-year veteran will not throw for two weeks and then will be re-evaluated.
The Phillies bullpen ranked around the middle of baseball last season. The club’s relievers as a group ranked 18th in ERA and BAA, 10th in K/9, and 11th in saves and K/BB among the 30 teams of Major League Baseball.
Hunter was likely going to be called upon by manager Gabe Kapler in the 5th-7th innings. He is one of a strong group of right-handed relievers that also includes David Robertson, Pat Neshek, Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Juan Nicasio, Edubray Ramos, and Victor Arano.
Teams usually lose players at some point during the spring training process. But this marks the second injury to a player who was expected to make-up part of the Opening Day roster. Outfielder Odubel Herrera was lost for an undetermined length of time with a hamstring injury last week.
There is enough roster depth to cover for the loss of Herrera and Hunter at this point. The hope is that these are the most significant injuries that the Phillies have to deal with as they prepare for what is hoped to be a playoff-contending campaign.
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