Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. “Pitcher experiences elbow pain, pitches through it, everything is fine”. Yeah, things don’t normally work that way. It’s sad what has happened to Ross Stripling, the energetic, personable, pitching prospect for the Dodgers. He is one of the true nice guys, you can tell from what has been posted on this site from the always amazing Kenny Shulsen. But it’s just sad what has happened.
If you somehow haven’t heard, Stripling is having a “contrast MRI”, the same MRI that looks for ligament damage specifically. And really the only
reason a pitcher would have a contrast MRI done on the elbow is to figure out about that UCL ligament, and whether it’s still, you know, intact. When Stripling, himself mentions the word “UCL”, it makes you feel even worse. TBLA had a great post on what he has been feeling this week and what led up to it, and it really opened some eyes for me.
“I probably should have gone in sooner once I immediately felt something, but I didn’t. I just didn’t want to be the guy who went in to the training room all the time in his first camp,” Stripling said. “Rookies are supposed to be the first ones here and the last ones to leave. You go about your business the right way.”
He’s my favorite prospect because of his attitude towards things, and everyone pretty much has this sort of gravitation towards him. And what I want to write about doesn’t just pertain to him. Oh no. It really is about the whole situation of “playing through an injury”.
I hate it. It just never, ever works. Matt Kemp (multiple times), Chad Billingsley, any number of pitchers dealing with strained UCL’s aside from Ervin Santana, Miguel Cabrera late last season. The list goes on… and on… and on….
I know, the professional athlete is a competitive animal, they wouldn’t be highly regarded in their systems, or even major league players if they weren’t very competitive human beings, and sometimes to them that means playing through pain. But man, it was a Spring Training game, it could be your UCL, it could be a full year off of your baseball career, it could mean that you’re passed up on organizational depth charts, it could mean that the organization decides they can’t wait for a year on you and sign someone else. An infinite amount of possibilities exist, and most of them aren’t great for Ross. The sad thing about this is Ross Stripling is already 24 years old. He’s not a young prospect who can “afford” a year off. He’s a guy who is turning 25 in November and may be ready for opening day next season, more likely May 2015, if all goes right, assuming the elbow ligament is really torn. If you take into the account that most pitchers take 2 years before they’re actually fully back from the surgery, and you think Stripling is ready to be a 30 start contributor in 2016, he’ll be 26 then, that’s taking away essentially 2 years that he had to adjust to the major league workload.
You see where these things go downhill?
Well, the point is, why hide it? Nothing is to gain. If you’re hurt, you’re hurt, and doing something highly unnatural like throwing a baseball at 90 MPH velocity can’t be good for a sore area, especially the area of most weight transfer occurring, the elbow.
It’s heartbreaking to hear this kind of news for a young pitcher like Stripling who we all like so much, but if this serves as anything, I hope it’s a lesson saying “don’t hide your injuries, it can’t get any better that way”.