The Two Worst Letters

Well it has been a while, both since I last wrote, and since I last played.  For the first time in my career I’ve managed to attach the two worst letters in the world to the end of my player page on MiLB.com.  On their own the letters D and L aren’t all that awful, losses suck, but in baseball you get another opportunity to win the next day.  Put the two together and you have yourself a problem, an ugly, annoying, frustrating problem.

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Last Saturday during our series with Lansing, Dwight Smith Jr hit a hard ground ball to my left that I made a diving attempt on. I was trying to keep the runner on second from scoring more than anything else, knowing the Smith runs very well. Instead of keeping the run from scoring, or getting an out, the ball scooted past me into right field and I landed really hard on my shoulder, jarring it loose.  I immediately knew something wasn’t right, recalling the feeling I had when I hurt my shoulder the same way during my Junior season at Stony Brook.  I kept moving it, swinging it, lifting it up and down, doing any form of the chicken dance to keep it from stiffening up and preventing me from finishing the game.  I iced it down after the game, headed home and hoped for the best, waking up the next morning to a splitting pain, and basically no range of motion.  Standing with my arms hanging at my side, I could move my arm about 5 inches away from my hip before it felt like it hit a wall, one that included a brutal pain.  My immediate thought scared the hell out of me, I didn’t remember ever having pain like this before, I remembered the dead, heavy arm sensation but never the pain.  My first thought as I rolled around in bed that morning was the worst case scenario. What if I’d torn something, needed to get it fixed and would be done for the year? I really did fear the worst.  Nothing changed for a couple of days which made me even more worried.

By the middle of the week, I began to get some range of motion back and the pain wasn’t as bad as it had been.  I had done everything I could within that first three day window, icing it as often as possible to bring down the swelling and inflammation.  I got a phone call on Wednesday telling me I had an MRI scheduled for Thursday morning, something I had been waiting for, since Ricky talked to the doctor a few days earlier.  Having had an MRI before I was less than thrilled, but I knew that I needed to get a firm understanding on what I had done, if I had done anything serious.  I headed over to the imaging center early Thursday morning knowing not only that I’d be stuck in the noisy, claustrophobic tube for 40 minutes, but that I’d get to make the experience more pleasant by adding an enormous needle with contrast dye.  When I walked back to get the shot done I immediately started to freak out, I hate needles more than anything in the world, and I made the mistake of looking at the tray of tools the doctor had laid out.  There were three small needles and one that I imagined was better suited to an elephant than a human.  The first shot, one of the small ones was an anesthetic to help make the huge one less painful.  The doctor told me I’d feel “a little pinch” as the big one went into my shoulder. “Tell my wife and kids I love them and I died in battle,” flashed through my mind as the shot went in, I felt like I’d been shot. (Note, I don’t have a wife or kids but that was somehow what I imagined being the right thing to say) The doctor didn’t like where the tip of the needle was, and so he took it out, and put it back in, finding a better spot, at which point he injected the contrast dye.  People have told me that they felt a cool swishing sensation when the dye goes in, but I was too focused on trying to breathe and not move to recognize if I felt anything other than lonely and sore.   The MRI wasn’t as awful as I expected, I was given headphones that were connected to the radio so I had music playing which helped me pass the time.  When I was done I headed home, met up with Walker and went for lunch.  The whole day my shoulder felt heavy, awkward and really sore from the shots.  I didn’t even end up traveling to South Bend for our final game of the series.

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I found out the MRI was negative, there was no damage to the structure of my shoulder which was a huge relief considering my immediate thoughts.  On Friday my shoulder felt better, having had the 24 hours to rest after the shot and having iced pretty well all day, so I started to go at moving it with our trainer Ricky.  Pat told me I had to do my lower body lift, so my rehab was going to wait.  I rode the bike for 15 minutes as conditioning, then did my weights.  Instead of using dumbbells I wore a weighted vest so as to not pull at my shoulder.  I knocked out the lift, and my legs felt sore having not done much over the previous week.  I then headed into the training room to do my shoulder warm up on the arm bike, yes an arm bike.  For those of you who haven’t experienced one, these are like stationary bikes, except you pedal with your hands, they’re a grind of a workout.  I did 8 minutes going forward, and 8 going backward to warm up before doing some strength tests, and stability exercises with Ricky.  I asked if I could play catch and take ground balls since my shoulder reacted surprisingly well to being used.  Ricky told me that as long as there was no pain I could do it.  It was awesome to be back on the field during batting practice, taking ground balls, turning double plays and throwing a few balls across the diamond.  Having spent 6 days watching BP from the dugout, mostly by myself, it was awesome to be on the infield dirt flipping balls to Rodney, throwing to Tejada and just being around the guys again.  Yesterday I got to take my first swings, doing a short round of tee work, and then 4 rounds of front toss in the batting cage.  My swing felt screwy having not been used in a full week, but again it was great to be back in the cage.   Today I’ll do the same cage routine, and also take front toss on the field, my favorite part of pregame every day.  Hopefully everything will go according to plan and I’ll be taking full BP after our off day.

I’m not going to pull an A-Rod and start saying that I’m ready to go and waiting on the all clear, because we all know how that turned out.  I trust that the training staff and coaches are giving me time, and extra days to make sure I come back healthy, and not in a situation where I’m likely to re-injure myself. I will however say I want to kick those two stupid letters as soon as possible because I’m so tired of coaching first base and watching my team play every day.

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