Life After Shoulder Surgery

Report: Jorge Soler finally declared a free agent
Yankees trade Steve Pearce to Orioles for cash
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I didn’t see the top half of the eighth inning in last night’s win  because I was busy watching Johan Santana throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Having grown up in a family full of Mets fans, it was pretty exciting. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Amazin’s though I never actively root for them like I did last night. It was a lot of fun and that’s what baseball is supposed to be all about.

As you know, Johan came back this season from major shoulder surgery. He tore the capsule in his left shoulder, the same injury that kept Chien-Ming Wang on the shelf for the better half of two seasons. It was a long road back and Santana deserves a ton of credit for getting back in time for Opening Day and throwing a career-high 134 pitches to finish off the no-no. The Cardinals went into the game leading the NL in AVG, OBP, and SLG, so he certainly earned it.

The Yankees are currently waiting for one of their own to return from a serious shoulder procedure, though it’s still kinda weird to consider Michael Pineda a member of the team given the zero meaningful innings he’s thrown in pinstripes. His shoulder injury was significant but not as significant as Johan’s, who had to have the joint cut open and fashioned back together. Pineda’s surgery was arthroscopic, just a scope. That doesn’t make it insignificant, but it’s better than having an incision.

Santana’s no-hitter and successful return from shoulder surgery don’t really mean anything as far as Pineda is concerned. The Yankees have invested a lot in the young right-hander — in terms of players, not necessarily money — and need him to become a big part of the future, but it’s very easy to feel like he’ll contribute nothing of substance to New York and that’s disappointing. Pineda is no more likely to make a full recovery today than he was yesterday, but Johan’s historic night was a nice little reminder that shoulder surgery is not always a career death sentence.

Report: Jorge Soler finally declared a free agent
Yankees trade Steve Pearce to Orioles for cash
  • nsalem

    i think it may have been a big mistake letting him go 19 pitches over his pitch count because he was pitching a no-hitter. A manager should not be swept away by the emotion of the moment. A no-hitter is meaningless compared to protecting any pitchers health even more so considering his importance to the team. I hope this doesn’t effect his future.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      It will be interesting so see how he does in his next start.

      If he does indeed have a prolonged drop off in performance after such a high pitch count, no hitter or not, it has to be considered a very foolish gamble on a pitcher with a reconstructed shoulder who is still owed about $45 million.

      • RetroRob

        I heard Terry Collins being interviewed and you could hear how happy he was for Santana, yet you could also hear the pain inside on the decision-making process, and be basically said something like, “ask me in five days if it’s the right decision.”

  • Rich in NJ

    Santana’s velo is down (and was down some before the surgery), but he is/was effective because he knows how to pitch. Pineda, as a young, developing pitcher, was still learning to do that. So he faces multiple challenges: a physical recovery, likely diminished velo, and his pitching learning curve.

    • Steve (different one)

      This is all true. But…he didn’t have as serious an injury. His velocity was starting from a much higher point than pre-surgery Mets Santana. And, he’s a LOT younger.

      So, some positives, some negatives.

      • jjyank

        Also, Pineda had pretty good command before the surgery. He wasn’t exactly an AJ Burnett in 2011. So it might be unfair to not describe him as a “pitcher”, because he wasn’t really just a “thrower”. If he keeps his command and can get his fastball up to within a few mph of 2011, he will be okay. I have faith.

        • DM

          Yes, he was definitely more than a “thrower”. I was impressed with that during ST b/c I expected him to be a guy who had gotten by on simply challenging hitters with 2 electric pitches — but he was more than that.

        • Typical MIT Nerd

          Yeah, cause faith makes all the difference. There are people here who still have faith in Hughes. Heh.

          • jjyank

            What? How about you address the overall point instead of being a Typical MIT Troll?

            If you want to throw in the towel and claim Pineda’s career is over, fine. I, however, find several factors that allow for cautious optimism. I find baseball much more enjoyable when I don’t assume the worst all the time. It doesn’t “make all the difference” for Pineda, but it sure does for my blood pressure.

  • vin

    What made Sanatana great was the changeup. If he was 94 (fb) and 82 (ch) in the past, he’s now 88/76. It’s not like a fastball / breaking ball pitcher, where you can sit on one pitch, and react to the other.

    Assuming the armspeed, deception and movement on the change are the same, then he should be expected to pitch well, despite the lack of velocity (or v-lo… yuck).

    Obviously, throwing 94 means he’s a bit more likely to get away with the occasional mistake out over the plate. That, to me, is the biggest hindurance for him moving forward (assuming he’s healthy).

    • Typical MIT Nerd

      This x100.

      A good to great change is all the difference. It made Moose effective long past his fastball dropping below 88 mph. The same will be true of Santana.

      The beautiful part about a good change is they’re much easier to throw for strikes than traditional curves and sliders. Take a non-pitcher like Burnett. On the days when his curve wasn’t going over, hitters just sat fastball. And he got crushed.

      A pitcher with a decent change can simply go back and forth with the fastball and moving locations and a hitter has a much harder time guessing right.

      Pineda never showed a decent change. That’s what he was trying to learn. As we’ve seen with Hughes and Burnett, a pitcher can go a whole, horrid career and never learn to throw a proper change.

      • Steve (different one)

        If you think AJ Burnett has had a “horrid” career, I really don’t know what to say.

      • Midland TX

        I believe it was Larry Koestler who on this very site demonstrated that it was the convergence in velo of AJ’s fastball and changeup that caused much of the damage he gave up. His change sped up, his 4-seamer slowed down, and batters caught up in a big way.

        So yes, changeups are important. You got just about everything else wrong, or made it up.

  • Guns of Navarone

    Yeah, Santana’s change-up is otherworldly. I know Pineda was excited about his change in ST and it will be an important pitch for him in the future; maybe the most important pitch.

    I think we can reasonably assume that the days of Pineda hitting 97mph are over, so that change-up is going to be key.

    Pineda’s youth is also a huge factor. We have to hope that a big, workhorse type pitcher, fastball 91-94, with a nasty slider and change-up, is in our future. That’s not a bad pitcher to have on your team. Maybe not next season or the season after that… but time is on his side.

    • G

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he still touched 97, but it’s unlikely that he’ll sit there upong returning. He could really be a right handed CC now, average fastball between 92 and 93, big slider, and hopefully a change up.

    • Kevin Winters

      That’s not a bad pitcher to have on your team.


      Is that the pitcher they thought they were getting