Echos of Long Toss and Towel Drills Past

Rich Harden was all the news yesterday even though there was nothing new going on. Harden was newsworthy because he's starting the spring camp with long toss rather than work off the mound like the other pitchers. He's been on an off-season strengthening program for an achy-breaky shoulder that everyone in Cubs camp is still struggling to label. It's kind of like having a family member with a psychiatric diagnosis in the 1950's. Nobody wants to label the poor fella because of the stigma and gossip. Sun-Times beat reporter Gordon Wittenmyer, in his blog, was irked that once again there was misinformation delivered this off-season regarding what the diagnosis of Harden's shoulder issues are.

Can anybody tell me what the advantage is in omitting those details and being vague about these things? It's not like the Cubs have to protect the information for the purposes of shopping Harden or for any on-the-field competitive reasons (scouts have eyes).

I've covered three other teams in my career, and the ones that were most up front about these kinds of things had the fewest headaches with the way the information got out. And the fans stayed well informed, without the yo-yo effect.

Bruce Miles, The Daily Herald's Cubs beat writer also chimed in via his blog:

Comment: This issue regarding his shoulder is beginning to sound too much like Prior all over again.. Hopefully not, though.

Bruce Miles: That was my first reaction, having lived through the Prior/prior nightmares. This is a little more nuanced. Kerry Wood made no bones about having a tear in his shoulder and telling us. A Cubs guy said Rich likes to handle it his own way. I'll give him that, respecting his privacy. I've always felt that if a team and/or player just comes out and says what the deal is, we deal with it and move on instead of operating under all this mystery. It's fair to say he's got some sort of tear in there.

As I said, the proof will be in how he throws the ball and how long he lasts.

Harden clearly doesn't use medical terminology but says he'll be fine. He can do what he wants, because it's his shoulder and there are laws that protect patients to their privacy although those rules get bent for celebrities and athletes via the press/paparazzi and the microscopes they put them under.

Carrie Muskat at mlb.com also interviewed Harden (here) generating this info:

He knows the word "tear" makes people skittish. There may be a tear, but it's nothing to fret about. Surgery was not something Harden considered.

To review, Harden had an MRI-Arthrogram in Oct 08, after his  loss in game 3 of the NLDS, which is the best diagnostic exam short of an arthroscopic procedure. The post test information released to the press was that Harden had "subtle laxity" but no rotator cuff or labrum damage. The Cubs subsequently picked up Harden's $7 Million option. Then during the January 09 Cubs Convention, GM Jim Hendry in discussing Harden said the word "tear" in describing Harden's problem. Thus providing Wittenmyer and Miles eye-rolling material as to what is going on.

Having a non-full thickness rotator cuff tear (ala Kerry Wood) can be managed non-surgically and that's what they are doing... including a spring training that will cast echos from the ghosts of springs past:
---
compare and contrast:

Harden:The right-hander did throw long toss and was seen smiling a lot on the first day of workouts.


Wood: "I'm letting it go and throwing all my pitches," Wood said. "It's nice to go on the mound and actually work on stuff instead of worrying if it's going to hurt. It's nice to get up and go."

He'd like to avoid the disabled list. Wood began last season still rehabbing from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, which he had in August 2005. He was able to pitch in four games from May 18 to June 6, but they weren't good outings and his velocity was off.

When the tear was revealed, Wood opted to skip another operation and rehab. That tear may never completely heal.

"Probably not all the way, but it's definitely strong enough to do it's job," he said. (2-14-07)


Prior: "I had some issues," Prior said. "I had some significant things I had to correct. He saw some things [in his shoulder] that weren't as good as he'd like to see in a 26-year-old."

Prior has "looseness" in his shoulder, which is genetic, and which helps his delivery but also means he has to do a lot of shoulder strengthening exercises. His problems began when he collided with Atlanta's Marcus Giles in 2003. (2-16-07)


 Wood: Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood did his long toss drills on Friday, and may be ahead of schedule..."It's pretty amazing," Wood said Friday. "It feels pretty good today, and today's better than yesterday. I expect the same tomorrow." (3-10-06)


Prior: Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior is taking a different approach in an attempt to get through Spring Training injury-free.

"We're doing a lot more endurance," Prior said Tuesday. "I've been on throwing programs before but this is a little bit more structured and we're trying to build up more arm strength, doing extended amounts of sets, if that makes sense. I'm sitting out there throwing 20, 25 at a certain distance, then taking a little break, then going back a little farther.

"It's a lot more structured," he said. "I think I'm responding to it well. We talked about it last year to take it slower, a little more methodical. I don't enjoy not being on the mound right now. But whatever you're dealt with, you deal with it." (2-21-06)


Finally, I've found the link that defines the purpose of the now infamous "towel drill". It's a rehab bonanza article by Carrie Muskat discussing the simultaneous February 22, 2006 rehab status of Wood, Prior, Wade Miller and Angel Guzman, a virtual superfecta!

Mark Prior also did his long-toss drills early as well as some towel drills off the mound. The towel drills are designed to get the pitchers back on the mound, acclimated to the slope and getting their balance.

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Comments

Trans: the above was written using all but about 5 of your mad-lib spring training guidelines.

LOL. Very, very, sadly true.

Given that Jimbo had to trade off or let go guys of like DeRosa and Woody to fit in a tight payroll limit, I doubt he would have picked up Harden's option if he did not feel like he could make atleast 2/3rds of his starts, which is 22 for a top of the rotation type guy that you would expect 34 starts from. With this weak division all we need Harden for is October anyway, we should just try the first 6-man rotation in MLB history with Z-Harden-Lilly-Dempster-Marshall-Heilman.

Sorry, but Mets tried the six-man in the early 1990s.  I think I had like 5 of the pitchers on my fantasy team.

funny as the Mets are the team that created the 5 man rotation in the 60's.

Oops.

As a giant intergallactic robot conqueror once said: IGNORE ME!

I'm tired of the Prior/Wood saga...they are gone....it's sickening to have to deal with this again with Harden....i don't care! As long as we stay healthy the division should be easy....therefore as long as he's ready to pitch the second half of the year...i'm fine with it! We knew what we got when we picked him up...so let's just deal with it.

Why there isn't more worry with Zambrano is what bothers me...nobody thinks his eye infection is a problem, there aren't any details on what type of infection, is it corneal ulcer or conjunctivitis? Then the whole issue of Lasix, what doctor is going to operate on a guy with an infection.

I think this depth (Marshall, Heilman, Guadin, Shark) that Hendry has picked up may be of considerable importance in the upcoming months...4 man rotation for most of the first month is great (limited Harden). Nice to hear this peavy nonsense go away...don't want to hear about it again...unless we are actually getting him and back ups for catastrophic injurys are still on the team.

Looks like the back up third basemen is going to be a reed johnson like acquisition which is great, however it may be the end of Hoffpower.

Go Cubs!

I think that as long as baseball requires pitchers, we'll be dealing with spring training stories of pitchers with mysterious injuries.  What would be a nice and imaginable change, as the Good Doctor points out, is to have an organizational philosophy of greater transparency...

Harden is throwing off the mound Monday according to GW.

It's a long season and once again we'll all have to wait and see.

Tribune.com-
Rich Harden threw off a mound on Sunday with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and trainer Mark O’Neal monitoring the session. “Larry was really pleased,” Piniella said

ah the towel drill...

it helps you get your mechanics straight by not putting a familiar weight/balance load on your hand. it's natural to grip and rip, but when you take the grip out of the equation someone can concentrate on "other" pitching mechanics by taking the familiar feel out of pitching while providing enough of a balance/load/resistance on the end of the arm so the shoulder doesn't feel like it's going to fly off.

...but it's more fun to just make 10,000 stupid jokes about towels, doughnuts, and infield rakes.

i wonder what some would think of the rubberbands-on-a-fence shoulder rehab tool...it looks just about as stupid as the towels.

beginning to hate twitter already...

"Gaudin looks like he's starting his own clubhouse Amish clique with a supergoat. 1 day ago"

...along with other vague as all hell micro-statements

hope it pays well...brings a new definition to "McNews"...watch out USA Today.

Either

That's good news about Gaudin!

Or

That's bad news about Gaudin!

Twitter makes me feel old.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/14323...

lou appreciating Marmol in the set-up role, Stanton certainly in play for a bullpen spot.

On the bright side, when Harden comes back from the DL, it will be like making a trade for an all-star caliber player.

*rolls eyes*

http://blogs.chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/spor...

Who was the president the last time the Cubs won the World Series?

ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez asked several Cubs that question on Sunday for a “SportsCenter” feature, and discovered that few had the answer.

Z already shaved off the 'stache.

is this like the Jacque Jones thing from a few years back?

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090215&c...

hahah.

that's david "what's that shit on your chins?" weathers

apparently it's too much to ask from the beat writers to know who the players are that they are covering...

Weather's and his three chins pic has been pulled

...Stanton will be portrayed by Gary Cooper in the movie version

"If Kurt Warner can disappear for five years, I can disappear for three." — Mark Prior, who hopes he's healthy enough to get a job in San Diego's starting rotation.

Not getting the comparison Mark.

What do you guys think the chances are that we'll bring Harden back beyond 2009? Assuming he makes his 20-25 starts and does OK, what would he command in the market? $15-20 million a year?

I just think we have about a 2-3 year window left with our current core group of players (Lee, Ramirez, Zambrano, Soriano) before we need to move to the next phase, and I don't really see where we are going long-term. We have a LOT of backloaded contracts due over the next few years, so what then?

I believe Harden will be the only Cubs starter coming off of the books after 2009. I don't know what other pitchers will be free agents around the majors, but I would think another offseason like this one is on it's way next year--meaning that if the American economy rebounds later, long-term contracts signed in the 2009-2010 offseason will look favorable to clubs 2012-ish. Harden isn't the sort of guy you sign when it's a buyers market. He's the sort of guy you gamble on when it's a seller's market because you can't afford the other guys who don't have tears in their rotator cuffs. That's how I've come to think of him at least.

Harden seems like a bad gamble going forth. Actually, right now picking up his option for 2009 seems like it was probably a bad gamble, but I'm not sure what other way I would've used that money (well, if I were a GM).

IF Harden is healthy by the end of the year and his agent is worth anything, he'll sell himself to the highest bidder. Not like he can really count on a bunch of mult-year deals for the rest of his career. He's still young enough that people will bank somewhat on his potential as well as past performance.

He's probably going to find some good offers if he is healthy, too. Pretty thin market on quality FA's:

Beckett with a club option, Webb with a club option, Cliff Lee with a club option, Hudson with a mutual option, John Lackey, Brett Myers, and Justin Duchscerer. Then you get to the Bedard's and Brad Penny's of the world.

Going to be thin on front line guys next year.

I thought Lee just signed an extension?

He signed a 3-year extension in 2006, with a club option for 2010.

I am pretty sure that the Indians will be willing to pay him $8M next year.

Long term I am sure the Cubs' intention is to develop their core. They just haven't done a good job of that in recent times, maybe with Vitters and Co. coming up (if they aren't traded) that will change.

Next season the backloads really start to hit. So this year's economic conditions at Wrigley Field will dictate where they go with a lot of players. I am certain the recession is going to hit MLB, and I don't think anyone is going to be shielded from it. Then there's new ownership, which at this point is yet another variable.

The thing with Harden is this.... When he comes off the DL. It's like making a deadline trade!!!!

I do think Hendry deserves some credit for stockpiling starting pitchers; Z, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Heilman, Gaudin, Marshall, and Samarddzjia.

That's 8 legit starting pitchers, and I can remember Cubs' teams in the not-too-distant past that were scraping their 5th (and sometimes 4th) starters togerther from a bunch of suspects and retreads in the last week of ST.

In those years, we would have been putting our hopes on a guy like Atkins to fill out the ML rotation, while this year he can take his time to shop for a nice apartment in Des Moines.

I'm not sure what "legit" indicates. If you mean "they've had a lot of success as starters", you gotta take Samardzjia and Heilmann off that list, possibly Gaudin. If you extend that to "someone you can count on to take a turn", Harden's out.

The Cubs are still short a starter, and I think they know it. They may very well end up including Atkins in the mix, if not counting on him.

In years past, if a Harden had gone down with an injury, we would have been left with the Derek Botelho's of the world as our only recourse.

Now, we do have pitchers like Gaudin who have been successful starters in the past. And while Heilman and Samardzjia may not have the same credentials, they have been successful ML pitchers who have shown the capacity to be successful starters.

Would another solid starter be an asset? Of course. Would Peavy be a great addition to this team? I would love to see him acquired.

But for once, even if we simply stand pat, we are in a position to succeed nicely with what we have on hand.

i still see samninja going to AAA to keep stretched out and starting...seems like it may go that way, anyway...especially with all the pen talk lately about how there's room for an extra guy.

Yeah I do too. I think they see Vizcaino as his replacement in the interim at least. I don't believe that right now Samardzjia is a big league starting pitcher, he only has 2 pitches, one of which he didn't control well in September.

Yeah I see what you mean, just not sure I feel comfortable with a Gaudin or Heilmann in the rotation unless it's short term. Boy that '85 season was a disaster, and at one point Dick Ruthven was the ace.

...and at one point Dick Ruthven was the 'ace'.

/fixed.

I remember him. Horrible. A 4-7 W-L record with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.603 WHIP, plus 37 BB against only 26 Ks. He might have been their No. 1 starter but he was never an 'ace' in any sense of the word.

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