By the time Saberhagen came to the Red Sox he wasn’t the same dominant pitcher he was in his heyday. The veteran signed with Boston following a season lost to injury. Saberhagen underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in October, 1995. It was decided that he would need reconstructive surgery on that shoulder when he still experienced soreness the following spring, sidelining him for the entire 1996 season.
Saberhagen’s Red Sox debut would come as part of a six-game stint at the end of the 1997 season as he worked his way back from the surgeries. His career got back on track the following year when he won 15 games and was named as the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year.
The shoulder injuries sapped some of the arm strength that once allowed him to mow down opposing lineups. Saberhagen had to adapt for the final stage of his career. He credits Joe Kerrigan, who he calls one of the best pitching coaches he ever worked with, for helping him through those adjustments.
"“At that time, after having a couple of surgeries, I needed to become more of a pitcher than a guy who goes out there with great stuff and knocking ’em dead.”"
One adjustment that Kerrigan stressed to Saberhagen was the importance of throwing first-pitch strikes. Pitchers working with diminished velocity later in their career can’t afford to fall behind in the count. If you do fall behind, use the big part of the ballpark to your advantage.
Saberhagen also talked about how improvements to scouting reports and the new wave of analytics led to further adjustments late in his career.
"“Back when I was younger and before I was hurt, I always felt that my best stuff was going to beat their best stuff because the scouting reports weren’t all that great. Then the Inside Edge came around and had tons of at-bats with all kinds of different guys, so the scouting and the information that we were getting was night and day better than when I was with the Royals.”"