SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Asked about the recent rash of elbow injuries around baseball, Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti jumped back as though stabbed with an electric cattle prod.
"No way, no way, I'm not talking about that," said Righetti, waving his hands and scurrying away.
"I'm not joking. I don't want to jinx us."
Righetti is usually an agreeable and articulate talker on just about any facet of pitching, but his paranoia regarding the mere mention of the words "elbow" or "Tommy John" is understandable. As the epidemic of arm surgeries continues to mount, the Giants are one of the few teams that have largely escaped the well-used scalpels of Dr. James Andrews and other surgeons.
Their record has been so good, in fact, almost everybody in the organization is reluctant to talk about it — from manager Bruce Bochy and Righetti to the team's training staff to the pitchers themselves. They know it could all change on one toss of a baseball, and they're treading lightly.
"We've been really fortunate, no question, the way these guys have held up ... knock on wood," Bochy said. "They were worked pretty good from 2010 to 2012, and it's a credit of how well they take care of themselves. But luck is a big part of it. Genetics, too."
A study by Bleacher Report sports injury writer Will Carroll revealed last year that 124 of the 360 pitchers who started the 2013 season in Major League Baseball — a little more than one-third — have had reconstructive elbow surgery at some point in their careers.
That statistic shows no signs of waning with the almost daily news of some pitcher going down.
The A's Jarrod Parker. Atlanta's Kris Medlen. Arizona's Patrick Corbin. The list goes on, and the trend has been more surgeries, not fewer, despite medical and training advancements.
Wilson the exception
The Giants are going the opposite way. As Bochy stated, it's particularly amazing considering the innings load the club's three homegrown starting pitchers — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner — have undertaken over the past several years, loads that have included two deep postseason runs.
The organization as a whole has been relatively free of dreaded Tommy John news in recent years. Former closer Brian Wilson was the most notable exception. Wilson blew his elbow for the second time (the first time was in college) at the outset of the 2012 season, but even in his case, he hid the symptoms of his aching arm from the training staff until it was too late.
Other than Wilson, the only other Giants pitcher who has had the surgery since 2010 was left-hander Eric Surkamp, who pitched a mere handful of games with the major-league club in 2011. Surkamp was designated for assignment in December and claimed by the Chicago White Sox. He did return to San Francisco to make an emergency start in the middle of last season, pitching five innings — and acknowledging that he wasn't 100 percent after the elbow reconstructive surgery.
The club's minor league system has been relatively unscathed, as well. Hunter Strickland, an 18th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates who was claimed by the Giants last year off waivers, required the surgery last May after a great start at Class-A San Jose, and he's well on the road to recovery.