CINCINNATI -- The right elbow sprain for young Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, and the possibility he might need season-ending Tommy John surgery, has continued a trend across the league this season.
Nearly 20 Major League pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery since the start of Spring Training to repair torn ulnar collateral ligaments, including A.J. Griffin of the A's, Patrick Corbin of the D-backs and Josh Johnson of the Padres. The Reds have not had any cases this year, but they have not been immune to elbow injuries over the years. Fernandez, who is officially sidelined with an elbow sprain, is reported to be seeking a second opinion.
A former Minor League pitcher and a big league pitching coach for 14 seasons before becoming the Reds' manager this year, Bryan Price was at a loss to pinpoint why elbows are blowing out at an alarming rate.
"At some point in time, there is going to be conclusive evidence of whatever it is," Price said on Tuesday. "This is an injury that was not a prominent injury when I played. I'm only basically a generation removed from playing. Pitchers didn't have Tommy John surgery, certainly not at this rate.
"I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's the fact that kids play year-round baseball, even though there are pitch limits and requirements. Playing baseball for nine, 10 or 11 months, as opposed to the three or four months of spring and summer is a lot different, especially when the body isn't fully developed. That's not an accusation. That's just a thought.
"It could be kids competing more in these travel groups, or if they're throwing breaking balls earlier. I really don't know, but I do know it's at an epidemic rate right now."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.