Astros: The pitching puppet master, Brent Strom
By Steve Ivey
Astros’ pitching coach Brent Strom is likely relishing yet another spring training to do what he does best.
As spring training rolls on, Brent Strom, the Astros‘ pitching coach, is likely going over mountains of information with the team’s pitchers. The new additions of Gerrit Cole, Hector Rondon, and Joe Smith are probably letting Strom know what they like to throw in certain situations, and he is relaying back to them what he sees that can be improved upon heading into the 2018 campaign.
When it comes to pitching knowledge, there are few in today’s game that can match what Strom knows. He is also able to ingrain into his pitcher’s minds consistently. After all, Strom goes way back with overcoming obstacles early in his playing career. The man himself had a shortened five-year stint in the majors garnering a 22-39 record with a 3.95 ERA. This was while pitching for the New York Mets (1972), Cleveland Indians (1973), and San Diego Padres (1975-77).
A career cut short by injury, and the pros and con of a serious surgery.
Strom is known more for turning other pitcher’s careers around, but as a player, he was the second pitcher ever to experience the infamous Tommy John surgery in 1978. After the procedure, he pitched across three minor league affiliates for the Astros in 1979. Two years after the surgery in 1980 at the age of 31, he came back to win 11 games for the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, the Tucson Toros. Strom would end his playing career by pitching in seven games for the Dodgers’ affiliate in Albuquerque the next year.
Per an article on the subject of Strom and the Tommy John surgery by Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, the Astros’ pitching coach traversed down numerous avenues to treat his injury before the surgery.
"…multiple prescription drugs, getting cortisone shots and undergoing acupuncture treatments."
Strom would later admit that he was ”masking” the issue.
"“So I was masking it, trying to hang on at the level of proficiency that I was, and it was a steep slope going downhill,” he said. “I’m just so glad now guys can come back from it, because of the expertise of the doctors these days, based on a lot of what Dr. Jobe brought forward, along with Dr. [Robert] Kerlan, who was Dr. Jobe’s mentor.”"
Strom does caution in the article that surgeries like Tommy John are anything but “routine.”
"“No operation, no surgery is routine,” he said. “The success rates have been increasing, and they’re able to do more with elbows than they are shoulders, and that’s a credit to the continuing experience and expertise of the doctors.”"
Strom would later share his thoughts on the issue on the eagerness of families in today’s youth circuit who needlessly push for the surgery today.
"“The thing that bothers me is when parents of people opt for the surgery when it’s not needed. Any time you cut on somebody, you can’t assume it’s going to be any better. The body wasn’t made to be cut on.”"
Fast forward to Strom’s second stint with the Astros.
Strom was actually the Astros’ pitching coach in 1996 for Terry Collin‘s Astros squad. This second stint commenced before the start of the 2014 season when Bo Porter was the team manager before current skipper A.J. Hinch.
When Jeff Luhnow was hired by the Astros to be their general manager in December 2012, he and management asked Strom to (re)join the Astros’ as their pitching coach a year later. This move was pivotal for the Astros as they were in the midst of a total rebuild.
Next: First round of cuts from camp announced
Now, Strom is one of the many pieces to the puzzle for the 2018 pitching staff. Young and inexperienced pitchers will undoubtedly go through some highs and lows during spring training. But Strom will be there always listening and instilling confidence along the way.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball-Reference**