|Las Vegas RHRP Cody Satterwhite (middle, rear) walks between practice fields with LHP Steven Matz (close) and RHP Jacob deGrom (far) in Port St. Lucie during Spring Training, 2015. Photo: Stephen Guilbert|
Friday night, another questionable use of a Las Vegas relief pitcher has many concerned over the young man's health and puzzled as to why the 51s overwork their relievers with such regularity while the Mets front office takes no action to protect their young arms.
Friday's game against the Reno Aces started off with a scramble when Logan Verrett was summoned to the New York Mets. Tyler Pill was called for the start. He last threw four days prior in his only relief appearance of 2015 (16 total) and threw only 31 pitches in that outing. His season high is 70. The day did not start well for Pill and before he could complete the 1st inning, he had surrendered seven runs and Wally Backman called on relief pitcher Cody Satterwhite to clean up the mess. Pill had thrown 39 pitches.
Cody Satterwhite, who has appeared in the 7th inning or later 38 times out of his 48 appearances and has a season high of 41 pitches, was asked to come in to the 1st inning of a game and throw 48 pitches.
The 48 pitches for Satterwhite was a professional high.
He took an at bat--something he had not done in a decade.
Cody Satterwhite is 28 years old. He sports a 4.73 ERA for Las Vegas and has never made the big leagues. Formerly a second round draft pick by the Tigers, shoulder injuries led to lost seasons in 2010 and 2012 and the Tigers parted ways before the Mets picked him up prior to the 2013 season.
Between then and the start of this season, Cody Satterwhite has been a very very good reliever for Mets minor league teams.
However, Cody Satterwhite is a 28-year-old right-handed reliever who has zero major league experience. The margin for error for a pitcher like Cody is thin. Perhaps more relevant and more concerning: One more major injury and his professional career is probably over.
That is why unnecessary risks--like throwing 48 pitches in mop-up duty when his arm is not accustomed to that exposure--are concerning.
Cody Satterwhite has a family. His wife, Mallory, is pregnant. If Cody Satterwhite suffers the same fate as Jack Leathersich, his career is likely over.
As it is, even with extensive time in the minors and playing at the highest level, minor league players make practically nothing. The average Triple-A salary is $2,150/month and that is only during the season. Someone like Cody Satterwhite can expect to make about $10,000 this year--well under minimum wage considering the hours they log playing, training and throwing. Conversely, the minimum salary for a major leaguer is $507,000, over 50 times what Satterwhite would make in a season. On a major league salary, Cody Satterwhite would eclipse his Triple-A season salary in under four days...whether he pitches or not.
Needless to say, getting to the major leagues even for one season secures a comfortable future for himself, his wife, and his child. One hurdle Cody Satterwhite should never have to encounter is reckless overuse. Entering a game in the 1st inning and throwing 48 pitches for a late-inning reliever used to throwing about 22 pitches per outing is reckless. It legitimately puts the health of Cody Satterwhite's arm at risk.
For what? To get through a game that, for all intents and purposes, is meaningless. The minor leagues are about learning, developing skills and maturation. It is not about winning. The Las Vegas manager, Wally Backman, and pitching coach, Frank Viola, had starting pitcher Tyler Pill throw 39 pitches. They had to get eight and a third innings out of their 9-man bullpen. They should not have asked one of their late-inning relievers to pitch more pitches than he ever had as a professional just to get through that game.
The problem remains that this is not an isolated incident. We have talked about it a lot over the past week on this site. Before you go saying that these are professional pitchers and chose this for a living, think about the ramifications of a decision to leave Cody Satterwhite in for 48 pitches.
For Wally Backman, it was getting through nine innings after his starter could not complete one.
For Cody and Mallory Satterwhite, it was concern over their future.
|Cody and Mallory Satterwhite are expecting a baby girl. Twitter: Mallory Satterwhite|
This is my third article on this topic. I never wanted that to be the case. However, every time the Las Vegas coaching staff pushes a reliever past where they should, I worry. I do not just worry about the future of the relieving corps for the New York Mets, a team I have been fanatic about for 20 years, but the relievers as well. As people. There is more at stake here than just finishing minor league games.
If the above has yet to convince you, let me give you one more example:
In 2011, Backman, then a first year manager in the Mets organization, he had a closer by the name of Erik Turgeon. Turgeon was a righty relief pitcher who saved seven games for the Binghamton Mets, tops on the team. The 24-year-old was drafted out of college in the late rounds and instantly became a reliever in the New York Mets system. While pitch count data for the low minors is not tracked, Turgeon was never asked to face more than 13 batters in an outing his first three years as a professional. Under Backman in Binghamton, he was asked to do that four different times in the same season, including one 3.1 inning outing in which Backman had this late inning reliever/closer throw 67 pitches.
That game, despite what you might think, was not an extra-inning slugfest in which every pitcher was taxed to their max. Instead, this was another instance of a starter getting knocked out early and Backman summoning a late-inning reliever to mop up. 67 pitches later, the Binghamton Mets were through the 5th inning. Backman only needed to use two more relievers after Turgeon. The B-Mets lost 11-2.
After that outing Erik Turgeon had an up-and-down finish to his 2011 season, battled (you guessed it) injuries in 2012 and then retired.