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It May Sound all Great Now, but Johan Santana’s Mechanics Indicate Another Future Arm Injury

By Joseph Delgrippo ~ March 1st, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, New York Mets.

The good news out of Mets camp was the 72 or 73 pitch bullpen session by Johan Santana,  where the hurler reported no pain in his surgically repaired shoulder,  and even though he wasn’t asked about it, his formerly surgically repaired elbow, either.

Santana was able to replicate a two-inning stint by throwing some pitches, sitting down for 4 minutes and 46 seconds, then getting up again to throw more pitches. This was pretty amazing. Amazing by the fact the reporter actually timed the length Santana sat down, and that the Mets offense must have had a really quick three-up, three-down inning in their turn at bat. Even in Little League I have never seen a half inning go that quick.

Also, if Santana throws 72-73 pitches over two innings in his first start, the Mets will be behind early and Johan definitely won’t get deep into the game.

In witnessing some video of Santana’s bullpen session, I noticed that Santana looks exactly like he did before he was injured.

But that is not a good thing.

It is great that Santana threw all his pitches and was mostly able to locate, but his arm action, which has precipitated his multiple arm injuries, remained unchanged. This means Santana will get injured once again.

When Santana begins to bring his arm back, he leads with his elbow, which puts much more stress on the elbow and shoulder joints. That’s why Santana has had surgery on both joints, with shoulder injuries always being the more damaging. I know, as I had a torn labrum from throwing too many splitters.

Most pitchers who do not have arm issues bring their throwing hand down first upon the hand break. The hand goes down, back and up. The elbow never gets higher than the shoulder on the backswing. Then when the front foot hits the ground, the throwing arm is up in the high cocked position.

Think Greg MadduxRoger ClemensRoy Halladay and Justin Verlander with these mechanics and arm actions.

But Santana leads with his elbow on the backswing, to where the elbow and the ball get higher than the shoulder. This “elbow high” arm action is ripe for arms injuries.

Think Jake PeavyA.J. Burnett and Johan Santana.

Try it at home. Pretend to throw but bring your elbow up higher. Feel the tension and pain?

Another thing which concerns me about Santana is that his body type is similar to that before his shoulder injury. I don’t know what his conditioning program is, but he still has that slight paunch in the middle and thick legs, but no general fitness or strength in the core is observed. The legs and core are the primary factors in velocity (it is not arm strength), and provides a solid foundation for the entire pitching sequence. This lower half strength is also paramount to arm health.

It makes me wonder why, after all this time away from the mound, Santana’s body has not changed for the better, to get stronger and maybe slimmer. After having Tommy John surgery, pitchers say the most grueling part of rehab is the core strength and leg workouts they go through immediately after the surgery. Since these pitchers cannot do anything with their arms, all their rehab is lower body.

It may look and sound great now, with Santana, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen singing praises about Johan’s command, ability to throw all his pitches and the strength of his shoulder.

However, based upon Santana’s similar mechanics and body type as before the surgery, it should be just a matter of time before the arm injuries crop up once again.

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Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.

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