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The Butler Did It: Protect the pitchers, please

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It was an injury that was completely avoidable.

That’s because the hard-throwing Errigo,...

Mike Errigo was lucky. The star pitcher on the Cardozo baseball team only strained a muscle by his pitching elbow in a game against Grand Street Campus April 30.

It was an injury that was completely avoidable.

That’s because the hard-throwing Errigo, who will play at Division I Stony Brook next year, threw 170 pitches in the 12-9 loss that warm Friday at Cardozo.

“I threw too many (pitches),” Errigo said. “I thought I was feeling good. I didn’t feel anything twitch until the last inning, and I tried to pitch through it but then it all fell apart that inning.”

Soon after Errigo went to his friend’s mother, a physical therapist who told Errigo he strained a muscle. It could have been much worse.

Errigo could have torn a muscle, he could have developed tendinitis and he could have never pitched again.

“You have to learn once and know your limits. It’s just too risky to hurt your arm,” Errigo said. “We could have let any reliever come in and we should have. It was my fault.”

But Cardozo coach Pete Douglas has to share the blame. Like most pitchers, Errigo wasn’t truthful about how he felt. He got caught up in the moment. It happens on all levels.

Heck, it happened in the seventh game of last year’s memorable American League Championship Series’ when one of the best pitchers of our time Pedro Martinez didn’t know when to say he had enough.

The rest, as they say, is history. As was Red Sox manager Grady Little after the decision.

“I trust Mike so much as captain and I’m sure he did feel fine,” Douglas said. “I trust him so much that if he’s not feeling good he would communicate that.”

It is a two-way street and too often the lines of communication are blurred by the game’s situation and the pitcher’s pride.

Many times coaches and pitchers alike think more about winning now than they do about the pitcher’s future. And in Errigo’s case, that could have been a devastating overlook by both parties.

It’s also a very fine line to toe. If a pitcher doesn’t feel good that day, then he could be viewed as not being a team player. If a parent voices his or her concerns about the pitcher’s health and future, they’re seen as overbearing and pushy.

Some programs, mostly in the CHSAA, don’t have these concerns. At places like Xaverian, a perennial power, pitchers are plentiful and coach Dennis Canale is able to protect them from being overused.

In fact, in a 3-1 win over rival Molloy, Canale said he kept starter Alex Urgelis in longer than he normally would because the pitcher flirted with a no-hitter.

In the end, Urgelis only threw 83 pitches.

“They have to talk to each other; they have to communicate,” Errigo said of a coach and pitcher. “It’s a big key. You have to have faith in your coach to know if he sees something wrong to tell you and if you see something wrong to tell him.”

Last year’s Errigo was Mike Lenzo, whose injury at the start of his senior year was “not due to overpitching,” according to Douglas.

Before that there was Danny Rosenbluth, who was the 2002 TimesLedger PSAL Queens Player of the Year.

Once a potential Division I prospect who threw in the low to mid 80s as a sophomore, he’s now across the street at Queensborough, his velocity and his confidence shot.

“I don’t know if he overpitched in the summertime, but it seemed like he was stronger as a junior than as a senior,” Douglas said of Rosenbluth.

To protect the Errigos and Lenzos and Rosenbluths and other pitchers across the city, the PSAL has to set some rules. There are rules in New Jersey and on Long Island to protect pitchers from being overused.

But in the case of the Long Island rule, actually the New York State Public High School Association rule, it is still too lenient.

•A pitcher can pitch no more than 12 innings in one day

•There must be a minimum of two days’ rest after pitching more than eight innings

•A pitcher cannot throw more than 18 innings in six consecutive days.

“It’s a pretty liberal rule,” said Doug Robbins, who has been the head coach at Levittown’s Division High School for 30 years. “They probably should go by pitch count because that’s a lot of pitching for a high school kid.”

If that same rule were in place in the PSAL and the CHSAA, Errigo’s 170-pitch outing would have been within the rules, as would have Bayside’s Todd Smith’s marathon week when he pitched a total of 14 innings in four days in wins over Flushing, John Bowne and Bushwick.

Mike Errigo is feeling better. After two weeks of rest he was slated to make his return to the mound Wednesday in the Judges’ first-round game against Port Richmond. But next time, next year’s Mike Errigo might not be as lucky.

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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