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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A conversation with Trey Hillman

Before Bryan Mitchell's start Wednesday, I had a chance to catch up with former Kansas City Royals and Hokkaido-Nippon Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman, who is now a special assistant with the Yankees. The topic du jour was Tommy John.

On the pitching philosophy in Japan:

I was uncomfortable with the number of pitches over there. I was uncomfortable with the pitch count for bullpens. I was uncomfortable with the fact that they didn’t really care about or monitored how many days bullpen guys threw. Their philosophy is, if its not broke, don’t fix it. Keep throwing them, because at some point in time pitchers are going to break. That’s true to a certain degree, but I just think there is differences in everybodies body chemistry. I think there are freaks of nature like the Nolan Ryan’s of the world, to do what he did at the advanced age and for the length of time. I think it goes to mechanics and body chemistry. Their mentality over there is throw, throw, throw, throw as much as you can, and I think that shortens the lifespan overall of the pitcher. I think the way we monitor arms with the New York Yankees is a much wiser approach.

On prevalence of Tommy John surgury:

When you have that much arm speed, you run the risk of doing that. Guys that through 96 or 97 miles per hour run the risk of popping of that thing. With the blessing of arm speed can also come the curse of having to monitor how much of that arm speed you use.

On if organizations need to take a new approach to limit injuries:

I’d agree with that, but give me an era where we don’t have to adjust. That’s why its such a great game, and I’m not saying the other sports don’t have to adapt and adjust either, but look at how we’ve had to adapt and adjust this year at the major league level because of replay. The way that things are happening with replay now at the major leagues is affecting our minor league instructors and development with the way that we teach. We want to make sure that at the start of the year, you had to show them the exchange, no more misdirection. Now with replay, you want to stay with the tag. You actually do want to stay with the runner, no ghost tags. So, is it changing? Yeah, I think its changing. Is there going to be something else 10 years from now. I think so. Ten years ago, the cutter wasn’t a big pitch and now its huge. Who is to say that 10 years from now, there won’t be the slimmer that’s legal. I don’t know what we are going to call it, but there is  good chance there is going to be another new pitch. Supposedly, Matsuzaka brought over the gyro. I think its always going to be that way, where we have to adjust and rethink the way we train our athletes. I think you have to think about that all the time, and keep adjusting and adapting, and hopefully we come up with thr right equation to take care of the different body types and the different chemistries of those body types to stay within their strengths and hopefully they don’t over-torque these guys. Teach them how to monitor it.

On the use of science:

The organization and people I’ve been blessed to work with here and abroad, you always felt like they were doing their due diligence and everything they to their capability and availability to make sure you were taking care of the athlete and monitoring the athlete. I don’t think you can ever do enough. I don’t know if there is anything with blood tests relative to torque or torque strength or arm speed or fastball velocity. I don’t know. I think you have to be wise with the number of reps, and the harder a guy throws, I think a red flag has to go up and you have to say, hey, this guy puts an unusual amount of torque on his elbow. I don’t think you can always point the finger and say he wasn’t handled the right way. Sometimes people break, and that goes more to the Japanese throught process. If you are going to abuse your body…first of all, in my opinion, the way god developed the arm, it works much more efficiently underneath than up top. This puts strain. This does not. That’s just the way god developed our bodies. If you are constantly going to do something up here, and for whatever that reason god blessed you with the ability to go from A to release with accuracy and speed and torque, something has to take the damage. That’s the elbow, or the shoulder, If you torque it, something is going to go.

On the unnatural act of throwing a baseball:

We get used to it because these guys are such good athletes, and we get used to the visually of it. We ‘oh, nice throw. Good arm speed.’ These are the things we look for in the development and scouting world, but I don’t think we’ll ever find exactly the right combination to that equation of how do we protect his arm. He’s 5-foot-11. How do we protect his arm, he’s 6-4. Well, he’s got a shorter arm arc. Well, the little guy has a longer arm arc but uses his levers better. He’s in line, he’s out of line. I’ve seen guys that throw across their body that never break. Mechanically, they should. Something should go. I think that goes back to body chemistry and strength of the muscle groups that need to compensate for that unusual action that’s out of line. I don’t have the answer and I don’t think anybody does, but that is the great thing about the game. We have to keep trying to find it so you can protect your investments.


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