This has gone unnoticed to some degree among the flood of basketball-related excitement, but something’s up with Shaun Marcum: The righty has been having shoulder trouble in camp, to the point where he might start the season on the disabled list.
At the beginning of camp, it was reported that Marcum was dealing with some stiffness/soreness in his shoulder. The Brewers put him on a slightly more conservative throwing program than usual (one fewer start than the other pitchers), partly due to his arm and partly due to his heavy workload from last year. On March 5th, Marcum met with the Brewers’ team doctor, and it was decided he would miss his first scheduled start on March 10. According to Tom Haudricourt (Paywall Alert!), Marcum had a cortisone shot somewhere along the line as well.
Two weeks later, Marcum has thrown a couple bullpens and tossed two simulated innings today, and is apparently ready to begin in-game action soon. That sounds good, but if Marcum starts the season as the Brewers’ third starter, he would be slated to first pitch on April 8th, three weeks from today. It’s an open question whether Marcum can get from where he is now to being able to throw 75-80 pitches a start (let alone a full workload) in that time.
So far, we can take comfort in the fact that Marcum is apparently fine right now, and the Brewers won’t be terribly hurt in his absence. Ron Roenicke said today that he’d be willing to let Marcum begin the season throwing 75 pitches a start and build up his endurance as the season went on, which means if he misses any time, it wouldn’t be more than a week or two. For that, the Brewers could get by with Marco Estrada for a start or two, or just go without a fifth starter until Marcum returns, without any great loss. Also, after today’s throwing session, it looks like Marcum’s arm is fine right now, and the only thing holding him back is the fact that Marcum is several weeks behind everyone else in terms of throwing.
While the immediate effects of Marcum’s issues don’t seem to be anything major, this kind of thing is precisely why a lot of Brewer fans (myself included) are very nervous about him in the long run. This is the second straight year Marcum has had shoulder problems in camp, and he was able to start last season in the rotation without any issues, he was completely out of gas by the end of the year. Marcum’s recent trouble, in my opinion, is one more reason to be very, very cautious about considering him for any kind of long-term deal, if past arm issues (2011 shoulder trouble plus a Tommy John surgery in 2008) and a downright painful-to-watch pitching motion weren’t enough already.