Lost in the jumble and giant overload in runs on Tuesday was that Danny Hultzen was scratched from his scheduled start in Tacoma. Hultzen recently came back from shoulder issues so this was a giant red flag when it happened. The reason for the scratch came out later, Hultzen couldn’t get loose and the scratch was more precautionary than anything else. That lessened the degree of worry about Hultzen and specifically his left shoulder. Today we learned that Hultzen slightly strained his rotator cuff and will rest for 10-14 days before trying to throw again.
Every pitcher is different and every arm is different so there is no clear-cut way to handle this for Hultzen, the coaches, and the training staff. But this is the second time Hultzen has missed time this year with a shoulder problem. Shoulders are fairly important for pitchers and many pitchers careers’ have been derailed because of shoulder issues. I am not saying that Hultzen is now a bust who won’t ever see time at the MLB level, but the M’s should and definitely are worried about this. And they are handling this the right way. I would rather Hultzen spend more time on the DL then be rushed back and suffer a much more serious injury.
Something I do want to bring up is the impact Hultzen’s delivery could possibly have on his arm and his shoulder specifically. Hultzen “crossfires”, or throws across his body. Meaning that instead of having his front foot and leg point directly to home plate, his leg points closer to the on deck circle. This puts more stress on his arm and his upper body to correct that angle and throw the ball towards home plate. As I said earlier, every arm is different so I cannot say whether Hultzen should change his delivery; it is a drastic step that could have some huge impacts on Hultzen as a pitcher. It is rash to make such a step right now but if these arm issues keep coming up, it is an avenue the M’s could explore.
Danny Hultzen is one of the best prospects the M’s have, and he has shown the talent to dominate at the AAA level. He could very easily be playing for the Mariners later this year. This minor injury is just that: minor. The M’s are smart and being cautious with Hultzen. This injury could very easily just be a small blip on the radar, much like the back issues that have occasionally flared up with Felix. However, Hultzen’s delivery does put more strain on his arm than a more traditional motion and if he keeps suffering setbacks a change in delivery may be needed. For now, Hultzen will do rehab and hope to return to the rotation in two weeks.