Jeff Passan

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Jeff Passan is an award-winning columnist who has covered baseball since 2004. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • Baseball's arm epidemic is getting worse, and Yu Darvish is just the latest

    Earlier this week, the Japanese Orthopaedic Society revealed the results of a massive survey of elementary-age baseball players. More than 10,000 children were asked a series of questions about pain in their throwing arms, and the results were staggering, particularly for a country that prides itself on building strong arms through endless repetition.

    Nearly 6,000 kids reported feeling pain in their throwing arms. Among pitchers, 49 percent said they experienced a shoulder or elbow injury. Not even 5 percent of those in pain bothered visiting an orthopedist, the specialist trained to treat such injuries. The report suggested wholesale changes in the Japanese baseball establishment.

    Such criticism tends to find as much traction in Japan as worn-down sneakers on wet blacktop. What resonates there, particularly among the children, are the fortunes of the stars who leave Japan for Major League Baseball. Perhaps now, with Saturday’s news that Yu Darvish’s ulnar collateral ligament is

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  • Sources: Cuban Hector Olivera could have damaged UCL in throwing arm

    Serious concern exists that Cuban infielder Hector Olivera has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm, potentially hindering the market for a free agent who many expected to contribute in the major leagues this season, sources told Yahoo Sports.

    Hector Olivera loosens up before a World Baseball Classic game in 2009. (AP file photo)Hector Olivera loosens up before a World Baseball Classic game in 2009. (AP file photo)Olivera, 29, recently underwent physicals for a number of teams in anticipation of Major League Baseball clearing him to sign. The market for Olivera swelled following a strong series of showcases and private workouts in which the right-handed hitter showed the powerful bat that made him a star second baseman in Cuba.

    No signs of potential arm trouble surfaced during his tryouts, when Olivera showed an average arm from second base and third base.

    He is believed to have at least one contract offer for more than $50 million, though the prospect of Olivera potentially needing Tommy John surgery in his right elbow could change that. If Olivera undergoes the procedure, the recovery time for a position player is typically six to nine

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  • Meet the man trying to be 1st Navy grad to pitch in MLB in almost 100 years

    JUPITER, Fla. – On the first day of his second career, Mitch Harris slipped on a St. Louis Cardinals uniform and looked every bit the part. The last 8 ½ years in the Navy turned him into a machine: 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, with 5 percent body fat. He stood atop the pitcher’s mound excited, finally here after the interminable wait. Then he let his first pitch rip.

    Mitch Harris, 29, might have reached 80 mph in his first bullpen session with the Cardinals' organization. (AP)Mitch Harris, 29, might have reached 80 mph in his first bullpen session with the Cardinals' organization. (AP)“It was really bad,” Harris said. “You can’t put into words how bad it was. The first time I threw, guys were laughing but trying not to. They were asking, ‘Why is this guy here?’ And it was a serious question.”

    The fastball might’ve hit 80 mph. “Maybe,” said Travis Tartamella, his catcher that day. The rest weren’t much better. Two years later, Harris cringes at the thought, though at the same time it edifies him, because here he is now in his first major league camp with St. Louis, his right arm back to where it belongs: fastball at 95 mph, cutter breaking bats, splitter filthier by the day, opportunity earned and palpable.

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  • Why Masahiro Tanaka isn't worried about the health of his elbow

    TAMPA, Fla. – Generally speaking, it bodes poorly when a team’s success going into a season depends upon contingencies. And yet here stand the New York Yankees, who have a bunch of ifs to show for their $215 million. As in: If CC Sabathia’s chronically degenerative knee holds up … and if Michael Pineda can make it through a full season healthy having not done so in three years … and if Ivan Nova can return from Tommy John surgery as some facsimile of his former self.

    Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was on the disabled list for 2 1/2 months last season. (AP)Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was on the disabled list for 2 1/2 months last season. (AP)The king of the ifs spends his days in Yankees camp, too, his fortunes as imperative to them as any other player to any other team. If Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow holds up – if the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament defies history and survives the season – the Yankees’ other uncertainties are of far less concern. Because as Tanaka showed last season before the pain in his elbow forced him to the disabled list for 2½ months, he is one of the finest pitchers in baseball when healthy, a rotation-fronting,

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  • The long recovery of Matt Harvey, and why that's a good thing

    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Five hundred ninety days. Matt Harvey ponders the time he's spent in the trainer's room, grinding through shoulder-strengthening exercises, stomaching all the other nonsense that comes with recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it comes back to that: When he steps on the mound at Nationals Park on opening day April 6, it will have been 590 days between major league pitches.

    This seems like a lot because it is. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Doctors and trainers almost all agree that to get a true sense of a pitcher's recovery from an ulnar collateral ligament transplant takes 18 months. The tendon used to tie together a pitcher's elbow doesn't transform into a ligament until about that time. To rest the arm throughout the process is a blessing most don't get.

    Whatever disappointment Harvey had in not returning last season has vanished. Eventually he recognized that he's one of the lucky few – the pitcher who gives his arm even more time to heal than

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  • Why David Ortiz's rant against new pace-of-play rules is off-target

    FORT MYERS, Fla. – Red Sox star David Ortiz ripped baseball’s new pace-of-play provisions Wednesday, which was not altogether surprising, considering MLB emphasizing the edict that requires hitters to keep one foot in the batter’s box might as well be called the David Ortiz Rule. He is the prince of procrastination, a malingerer worthy of comparison to Mike Hargrove and Nomar Garciaparra, the patron saints of between-pitch futzing around.

    Every time he removes himself from the 24-square-foot box this season, Ortiz risks a maximum fine of $500. “Well,” he said, “I might run out of money.” Going into this season, he has made more than $125 million in his career.

    David Ortiz likes taking his sweet time at the plate. (AP)David Ortiz likes taking his sweet time at the plate. (AP)Bankruptcy threats aside, Ortiz’s condemnation of the rules resonated for two reasons. The first was obvious: More and more players are speaking out against baseball’s efforts to hasten pace, and Ortiz’s voice carries an immense amount of weight among fellow players and fans still trying to judge whether the decrees will hold.

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  • What it's like to spend a day inside Alex Rodriguez's world

    TAMPA, Fla. – It's hot out here on the sidewalk of North Himes Avenue, the kind of hot that burns skin and makes a mockery of antiperspirant. The sun is unrelenting, laughing at the suckers camping beneath it and waiting to be part of the farce yet again.

    This is how it works with Alex Rodriguez, how it's worked ad infinitum. Sometimes it is in an antiseptic room swathed with the logos of the New York Yankees and the Yankees' sponsors, and others under a tent, the literal big top, and on Monday it is outside the Yankees' minor league complex, which is off-limits to non-Yankee personnel, leaving two groups on the sidewalk: a horde of media and autograph-seeking fans, neither a particularly well-regarded phylum in the baseball kingdom.

    For the first time since his record 162-game suspension, A-Rod is planning to address the media. Both parties are complicit in the charade. Questions are asked, hoping to elicit answers not just worthy of quotation marks surrounding them but some insight

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  • Cuban super prospect Yoan Moncada agrees to sign with Red Sox

    TAMPA, Fla. – Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada agreed to sign with the Boston Red Sox for a $31.5 million bonus Monday, smashing records and delivering one of the most talented young players in the world to a franchise already teeming with them.

    Yoan Moncada, 19, is a switch-hitting infielder. (MLB.com)Yoan Moncada, 19, is a switch-hitting infielder. (MLB.com)A dark horse lurking behind the more publicly favored New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Sox landed Moncada despite having players tied to his potential positions for the next half-decade. A switch-hitting 19-year-old who can play second or third base, Moncada is a brutishly athletic five-tool player, a ballplayer masquerading in a linebacker’s body, mature enough that one team in the bidding considered jumping him straight to the major leagues.

    Instead, Moncada is expected to start out in the lower minors, where he can remember what it’s like to play baseball after a harrowing 14-month journey to this point. Moncada is believed to be among the first players to leave Cuba legally, and he sat in limbo in Guatemala for months awaiting

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  • Why David Price has concerns about MLB's effort to pick up the pace

    LAKELAND, Fla. – One of the fastest pitchers in baseball likes going slow, thank you very much, and the game’s coming culture war is aimed right at him. He throws as hard as any left-handed starter, his fastball sitting in the mid-90s. He also takes a lunar cycle to throw it – 26.6 seconds between pitches last year, to be exact, the longest wait by a major league starter.

    David Price works slower than any pitcher in baseball. (AP)David Price works slower than any pitcher in baseball. (AP)That is 6.6 seconds more than the 20-second pitch clock Major League Baseball will implement in the minor leagues this year and, it hopes, introduce at the big league level in the coming seasons. Take those 6.6 seconds, multiply them by 100 pitches and that’s 11 minutes of game time, vanished. And, so, yes, in theory David Price does understand why baseball is talking about a pitch clock, which would complement less-drastic changes the league implemented Friday to increase pace of play in what it worries is becoming an increasingly interminable game.

    At the same time, consider Price, a former American League Cy Young

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  • Sources: MLB could alter strike zone as response to declining offense

    Major League Baseball is considering altering the textbook definition of the strike zone for the first time in nearly two decades, fearful that the proliferation of the low strike has sapped too much offense from the game, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The Royals' Nori Aoki swings through a low pitch. (AP)The Royals' Nori Aoki swings through a low pitch. (AP)Concern around baseball about the strike zone filtered down to the MLB’s Playing Rules Committee, which must formally adopt a rules change before it’s implemented. The committee will pay close attention to the size of the strike zone in 2015 with an eye on change as early as 2016 after studies showed it has expanded significantly since 2009, coinciding with a precipitous dip in run scoring. Of particular concern, sources said, is the low strike, a scourge not only because it has stretched beyond the zone’s boundaries but is considered a significantly more difficult pitch to hit.

    Runs per game fell to 4.07 in 2014, the lowest mark since 1981 and the 13th fewest since World War II, and studies from The Hardball Times' Jon Roegele and

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