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November 17, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Rob Johnson having surgery right now, but tips cap to Felix Hernandez beforehand

Rob Johnson is undergoing wrist surgery as we speak. I spoke to him earlier this afternoon, when he was on his way to the Seattle clinic where the procedure was to take place. The surgery will be exploratory to start, then any damage that needs fixing will be taken care of in what will be a day procedure of only a few hours.
The good news for Johnson is that it now appears he won’t need a fourth surgery, this one on his elbow. Johnson had the elbow looked at last Friday and for now, it appears that any soreness can be resolved through therapy.
That’s good news, since the catcher had his second hip operation of the off-season two weeks ago and now is getting the procedure on his wrist. Johnson will meet tomorrow with team medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan, who will make a final call on any possible elbow surgery.
“Right now, it doesn’t look like I’ll need it,” Johnson said. “Getting put under three times in a month already, I’m just about done with the whole surgery thing.”
But Johnson says he feels great. The lingering pain from both hips, which plagued him through the latter part of the season, is now history. He’s still got a bit of a limp from the most recent hip operation, but other than that, his rehabilitation is advancing on schedule and he feels he’ll be OK to start the season.
“The big thing is that all of my injuries needed attention,” he said. “But none of it is surgery that’s going to knock me down for six or nine months.”
Johnson had heard the results of the Cy Young voting when I called and told me he wasn’t overly shocked that Zack Greinke was the runaway winner. Johnson said he felt both Greinke and Felix Hernandez had seasons worthy of a Cy Young win and that Hernandez could have taken home the prize in just about any year.
Photo Credit: AP

We talked about what pitching coach Rick Adair mentioned to me earlier — that he thinks Hernandez will still improve from a season that saw him go 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA. Johnson agreed with that and for the same reasons: that Hernandez is learning to become more efficient.
“I think as the season went on, he began to understand the effectiveness of his pitches more,” Johnson said. “He understands hitters a lot more now. He doesn’t have to throw the kitchen sink at hitters anymore.”
I crunched some numbers earlier today and found that Hernandez was averaging 15.75 pitches per inning up to and including the infamous May 19 loss to the Angels. From then on, he averaged 15.0 pitches per frame.
Now, throwing three quarters of a pitch less per inning might sound trivial. But it all adds up. That extra half-dozen pitches it takes to get through the sixth? Well, if a pitcher’s already at 105 pitches by then, it’s far less likely he’ll get sent out to work the seventh inning than if he’s at 99.
Think about it.



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