During his career, Brad Arnsberg spent nine years as a pitcher between the major and minor leagues. He’s been a coach for the last 16 seasons. And yet, in all that time, the Blue Jays pitching coach has never seen the likes of what has happened to his staff this year.
One of the biggest stories in 2009 for the Jays has been the magnitude of injuries to the club’s pitchers. From Ricky Romero’s oblique strain — sustained while sneezing — to Scott Downs’ sprained toe, injuries have been strangely contagious in Toronto’s clubhouse.
“It’s been that kind of anomaly-type year,” said Arnsberg, 45. “It’s been a tough season.”
Mostly because of injuries, the Jays have used 12 different starting pitchers this year, including six rookies. Eight different hurlers landed on the disabled list, and that’s not including Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan, who both began the year on the DL.
Aside from the pitchers themselves, nobody has been affected by the injuries as much as Arnsberg. A man with a profound passion for his job, Arnsberg takes his pitchers seriously. That’s why it has bothered the coach that some have blamed him for their injuries.
“When you go back and look at the way (pitchers) have been used, I never once felt like I did something wrong ... or put people in harm’s way,” he said. “It’s just been a cluster of a year as far as trying to keep these guys healthy. But never once — and I will go to my grave saying that — did we ever put them in harm’s way.”
Arnsberg admits that his duties have changed with the injuries, especially given the number of rookie pitchers on staff.
“The amount of teaching and talking that’s going on trying to get them to believe in themselves is a lot different than what I’ve ever dealt with as a pitching coach before,” he said.
But if there’s one positive about the tidal wave of injuries, it’s been that Arnsberg and the Jays have had ample time to evaluate the young talent of the organization.
And so far, Arnsberg has been impressed.
“A lot of the new faces have been a pleasure to watch,” he said. “For the most part, they’ve really gone out there and proven themselves to be quality starters.”