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.