Saturday, February 21, 2015

Maxed Pentecost?

      Word came down from Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith that Max Pentecost, the club's second first round pick last June, had a second procedure performed on his throwing shoulder this week.
He referred to the procedure as a "clean out" of the shoulder joint, performed by arthroscopic surgery.
Nicholson-Smith says the same operation was performed in October,

   I have to admit to being a little confused about the whole situation.  According to multiple reports last fall, Pentecost had surgery to repair a torn labrum, which is a much more extensive, invasive and delicate procedure.  With an arthroscope, the scope is inserted through an incision to examine the affected area, and make any necessary repairs.  Recovery from a torn labrum can take up to a year, depending on the extent of the tear.  The recovery time for a scope is much shorter - Pentecost can start throwing in May.  Reliever John Stilson underwent labrum surgery last August (his second such operation), and likely won't be ready to start throwing until the end of spring training at the earliest.

   Which one was it?   Nicholson-Smith claims the October surgery was a scope.  The always-excellent Alexis Brudnicki of the Canadian Baseball Network, Baseball America, and several other places, reported that it was a partial tear shortly after the first surgery. To me, it's not clear.

   Either way, there's really no reason to panic.  With the acquisition of Russell Martin, Pentecost's development has been pushed back anyway, and even though he was hurting in his short audition with Vancouver behind the plate last year, sources indicate that his defensive skills need some work.
Scouts have generally regarded him as having good pop time, but he needs further tutoring and refinement of his footwork, pitch blocking, and game-calling skills. His bat and base-running ability will always be his most prominent tools, but his work behind the plate needs upgrading before he's ready for prime time.  In a way, this injury buys him more development time.

   It's not unusual for baseball players to need their elbows and/or shoulders cleaned up.  The violent and unnatural action that is throwing a baseball is bound to lead to fibre and bone detritus floating around in those joints.  Daniel Norris had bone chips removed from his throwing elbow after last season, as did prospect Matt Boyd.  I don't want to say that it's routine, but the success rate is pretty high.

  There are some who are already calling Pentecost damaged goods.  He did wear down after a long college season last summer, and had a number of dings, including his shoulder, that necessitated an early shutdown and return to Florida.  His timetable for making the major leagues, to me, was always 2-3 years away in the best of scenarios.  It's hard for any prospect to make the leap from college ball to the majors right away, and catching may be one of the biggest leaps of all.  The Blue Jays aren't planning on having Pentecost in the lineup this year, nor the next.  If this procedure was a scope, as Nicholson-Smith says, there's not a lot to worry about.  Pentecost may be able to DH early this year, although his recovery time will probably cut into how many plate appearances he can accumulate.
The most likely path for him this year is to stay in Florida for extended spring training for some or all of April, and then be assigned to Dunedin of the Florida State League.

  Lastly, as I am not a medical doctor (although I have a fair amount of first-hand surgical experience, which, unfortunately, I was not awake for), my medical advice and knowledge is suspect, so here is a good resource on all things related to shoulder injuries and their treatment.  
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