Matt Blake texted Cleveland Guardians pitcher Shane Bieber a conciliatory message over the weekend. As a member of the Cleveland player-development system in the 2010s, Blake aided Bieber’s rise from college walk-on to American League Cy Young Award winner in 2020. For a time, Bieber represented the modern model for the manufacturing of a big-league ace, a player who added strength to his frame, velocity to his fastball and spin to his off-speed pitches as he ascended the ranks.

By the time Blake sent his text, though, Bieber had become a part of a troubling demographic: talented young pitchers who will spend this season as spectators. Two days after the Miami Marlins announced 20-year-old phenom Eury Perez would undergo Tommy John surgery, the Guardians disclosed that Bieber, 28, would need the same procedure. A recent examination of Atlanta Braves starter Spencer Strider, 25, revealed damage to his elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament, which could result in his second Tommy John surgery. In New York, where Blake is now the Yankees’ pitching coach, the team has lost its ace, Gerrit Cole, until June with elbow inflammation and one of its top relievers, Jonathan Loaisiga, to year-ending elbow surgery.

"As a pitching coach trying to get through nine innings worth of pitching every night over 162 games,” Blake said, "I’m pretty worried.”