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BASEBALL / DOWN THE LINE

World Baseball Classic might have hurt pitchers

Almost two dozen of the big league pitchers in this spring's tournament have landed on the disabled list.

August 16, 2009|Kevin Baxter

Classic problem for pitchers

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but nearly two dozen of the big league pitchers who participated in last spring's World Baseball Classic have landed on the disabled list this season, including six of 15 who pitched for the U.S.

One of those was the Angels' Scot Shields, who was largely ineffective through 20 appearances (1-3, 6.62 earned-run average) before having season-ending surgery on his left knee.

The Angels wondered whether Shields' slow start, if not the injury, was a product of his five relief appearances in the WBC in March. The Boston Red Sox blame the tournament for Daisuke Matsuzaka's problems. Matsuzaka led Japan to its second WBC title but made 65, 86 and 98 pitches in three starts. He has made two trips to the DL and only eight starts for the Red Sox, going 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA.

Other WBC pitchers who have missed significant time this season include the Cincinnati Reds' Edinson Volquez, who will be out at least a year after having reconstructive elbow surgery two weeks ago, and the Chicago White Sox's Jake Peavy, who was traded from the San Diego Padres nearly two months after right-ankle surgery.

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Let the Games go on alone

As troublesome as the WBC may be, don't expect to see the plug pulled any time soon -- especially after the International Olympic Committee's executive board decided not to consider baseball's petition for reinstatement to the Summer Games.

Thursday's vote leaves the quadrennial WBC unchallenged as the top international baseball competition, increasing its importance as a tool for growing the sport in places such as South Africa, China and Italy.

"The IOC will not deter us from continuing our efforts to grow the game globally," the commissioner's office said in a statement released shortly after the IOC vote. "The World Baseball Classic, which is the world's premier international baseball tournament, is the cornerstone of our global effort and we will work hard to make it even bigger and better in 2013."

Losing the sanctioning of the Olympics will be costly, though. In many countries, funding for national programs is weighted heavily in favor of sports that are on the Olympic schedule, so the IOC's decision could virtually wipe out grass-roots programs in countries where the sport is still developing.

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Question of style over substances?

Count the Reds' Bronson Arroyo among those who have trouble making sense of the controversy regarding performance-enhancing drugs.

"It might be dangerous," Arroyo told USA Today last week. "But so is drinking and driving. And how many of us do it at least once a year? Pretty much everybody."

On the days he pitches, Arroyo says, he uses as many as 16 over-the-counter supplements, including many not approved by baseball. Arroyo said he believes his name is on the list of players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 because he was taking androstenedione and amphetamines before they were banned.

"Society has made this such a tainted thing," he said. "The media has made it where people look at it in such a super-negative light."

Fans, he said, care more about winning than "whether Manny Ramirez's kidneys fail and he dies at 50."

"You were happy if the Red Sox won 95 games," said Arroyo, a teammate of Ramirez's in Boston. "You'd go home, have a cookout with your family. No big deal."

-- Kevin Baxter

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