It seems like every arm the Red Sox pick up in the Dave Dombrowski era ends up breaking, or at least bending the wrong way at some point.
Injuries can be coincidence and freak developments. But as health questions dominate Red Sox camp, it's fair to start to wonder how well the Sox are evaluating medicals before adding players.
RED SOX PITCHING INJURIES
- Pomeranz feels 'great' after making mechanical tweak, won't miss start
- Recuperating David Price probably out until May
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he doesn’t detect anything abnormal this spring when it comes to the number of injuries.
“I think you probably have health questions because you’re focusing on our camp. That’s why. They’re normal,” Dombrowski said before the most recent concern to a Red Sox pitcher, a tight triceps for Drew Pomeranz, arose. “I don’t find anything that’s been abnormal this spring compared to any other spring I’ve ever been.
"We’ve focused a great deal on medical. But we’ve been doing that for years and we continually look at that all the time. So I don’t think there’s anything abnormal.”
But the worries are nonetheless numerous.
David Price, the biggest Dombrowski acquisition of all, has an elbow injury and is to be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
Dombrowski reiterated recently that when the team signed Price, his medicals were reviewed in depth.
“It’s very thoroughly discussed," Dombrowski said. “Of course, you don’t want him to go down at this point. You know, any pitcher that’s in that position, that’s pitched a lot, has some wear and tear. But I’ve also been around pitchers that are 37 or 38 and continue to pitch and have been fine.”
Power reliever Tyler Thornburg, a Dombrowski acquisition, has had trouble with his shoulder -- trouble that appears rooted at least in part in a misunderstanding about how to go about his offseason conditioning program. The Milwaukee Brewers, Thornburg’s previous team, had a different program.
Shouldn’t someone have made sure Thornburg understood exactly what to do? Or is more at play here?
Thornburg is to throw in a simulated game on Tuesday before potentially returning to Grapefruit League action.
In Pomeranz, the Sox have what might be a bellwether situation.
The team had multiple opportunities to return the lefty to the Padres because of his medical condition last summer, after the Sox dealt pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to San Diego straight up for Pomeranz.
A tight triceps on Sunday gave way to feelings of optimism Monday, when Pomeranz said he felt better and plans to make his next start.
But that doesn’t change Pomeranz’s history of injuries. He went for a stem-cell shot to promote healing in his throwing arm over the winter.
The Sox were between a rock and a hard place when they learned last summer the Padres had not been forthcoming with Pomeranz’s medical records. They needed an arm, and Pomeranz was healthy enough to pitch, so they chose not to rescind the deal.
But Pomeranz was acquired for his future value as well as his 2016 value.
If the Sox didn’t have a strong grasp on the condition of his arm, that’s a potentially big misevaluation. And if they did foresee what seems like perpetual worry with Pomeranz, then Espinoza was a mighty big piece to surrender for uncertainty.
The list goes on.
There's Carson Smith, the righty reliever Dombrowski traded for in his first winter with the Red Sox. Smith is expected back midseason after Tommy John surgery last summer.
A pitcher who came over in the same deal with the Mariners as Smith, Roenis Elias, has a strained oblique and is in the middle of a three-week shutdown period.
Don’t forget Hector Velazquez. The righty was signed out of the Mexican League this spring and thrown into the fire too quickly in Fort Myers.
The Red Sox had to ease off Velazquez's workload as he felt some stress on his elbow -- a situation that sounded avoidable, had the Sox been more cognizant of the routine change Velazquez was facing and his prior workload.
Per Baseball-Reference.com's count, Velazquez threw 246 2/3 innings in 2016. Were he in spring training in Mexico, he said he would have rested longer.
“Well, who’s going to prevent Elias from [hurting] an oblique?” Dombrowski said. “Thornburg, I talked to him, he’s fine. . . . You’re going to go through those with some pitchers in spring training. I haven’t had a [time] where you haven’t. I mean, David [Price's] situation you’re not anticipating it. But I’d have been surprised we made it through the year and someday didn’t have something.
“But, I bet you if you looked, 90 percent of the teams, maybe 100, 95, have some problems. That’s just pitchers’ arms. That’s just the way it is . . . I could tell you and I have said this before, and I know everybody else would say this: with the sophistication of the medical industry nowadays, I don’t know the last time I’ve traded for somebody or signed somebody: nobody has a pristine arm. Nobody. I can’t even tell you the last time -- it doesn’t exist.
"So you’re going to know that that’s just part of the equation. And then you have to weigh what type of risk you’re willing to take. And so we spend a lot of time on that.”
All the injuries to Dombrowski acquisitions could be one big coincidence. But the Sox are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t question whether something else might be at play, whether there’s a process to be improved, whether they're spending time on all the right things.