Shoulder “soreness” can dredge up a wide range of emotions and reaction from the core of any baseball fan’s being. It’s never a positive sign when a pitcher reports soreness, discomfort, pain, stiffness, tenderness, etc. When the stiffness resides in the shoulder of Royals number two starter Gil Meche, my immediate reaction was “uh-oh.”
Last night Bob Dutton published Royals’ Meche admits shoulder stiffness after early exit which contained the following quotes.
"“They’ve done all of the tests to check me out,” Meche said. “The shoulder is strong, but the tightness is there. I just don’t feel real loose when I’m pitching. I just have some shoulder stiffness. Nothing serious.”“It’s been kind of in and out,” he said. “There’s no pain. So I’m not worried about it. But this stiffness, I’ve got to get to where I’m flexible. I’m doing a lot of stretching. I’m just trying to get to a point where I feel comfortable on the mound.“I know I need to get my pitch count up,” he said, “but as long as I feel good at the beginning of the season, everything will be fine. I don’t want to get to where I’m having stiffness once we start (the season).“Strengthwise, I feel good. I’m really not worried about it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a spring training when I didn’t have any problems.”"
Do you see a common theme running through what Meche is saying?
"It’s nothing serious."
First, it’s the shoulder of our second best starting pitcher who happens to be 60% through a 5-year $55 million contract. Even if he just bruises his shoulder in the process of getting a beer out of the fridge at home, it’s serious. There is still $24 million of contract riding on that shoulder* and if healthy, he will be one of the few Royals players in demand at the trade deadline this summer.
"There’s no pain."
This may or may not be true, but I don’t know if I buy this entirely. Meche is a gamer. He’s a tough guy and he’s dealt with his share of arm issues in the past including missing all of the 2001 season. Does he really feel no pain in the shoulder or is this a case of wishful and positive thinking on his part? Of course we cannot forget that Gil disintegrated after his infamous 132-pitch complete game shutout on June 16th last season. We also cannot forget that he missed the second half of July, the first half of August, and all of September with a “dead arm” and shoulder fatigue.
"Everything will be fine."
No. No it won’t. This is the shoulder of Gil Meche we’re talking about. The injury history, the events that unfolded last season, and the fact this is the Royals involved lead me to believe that things are not going to be fine. I’m a Royals fan and a baseball fan. Don’t tell me everything will be fine. Prove to me that you are fine.
"I feel good."
Maybe it’s semantics but if a pitcher is feeling good, he doesn’t need to leave a game with shoulder stiffness. If a pitcher is feeling good there is no need to reveal that he’s felt similar stiffness in his earlier spring outing. Stiffness does not equal feeling good.
"I’m not really worried about it."
This is surely more rainbow and sunshine positive thinking on Gil’s part. I can’t say for sure whether or not he is worried, though I find it hard to believe that he isn’t. I can say with 100% certainty that I am worried about it.
Want more reason to worry?
Rotoworld reported about three hours ago that Meche will skip his Wednesday workout and is “unlikely” to make his upcoming start which was scheduled for Saturday. The Rotoworld blip surely stemmed from Dutton’s piece this afternoon which revealed that Meche’s stiff shoulder has Royals pondering options. The small positive from this is that the Royals recognize that there is a problem here.
This news follows what I heard on sports radio 810 WHB this morning. Soren Petro, who is far and away the best sports talk radio guy I’ve ever listened to, mentioned that a source inside the Royals organization revealed that Gil Meche’s shoulder “does not look good” and that there was some discussion of surgery last season. Petro went on to say that the team’s medical staff, according to this source, doesn’t expect him to make it through the season. He did point out that he did not have a second source on this information, but that his source has been reliable in the past.
Regardless of the source, the events that have played out since last summer clearly point to the fact that there is a significant problem under the surface here. Shoulder injuries can derail a major league career faster than any other and often times are difficult to pinpoint.
From my standpoint Meche has already earned most of the $55 million the Royals paid him, so I’m not so hung up on the money. His contract wasn’t just about the years or the dollars when Dayton Moore signed him. It was just as much about changing the perception of the organization and its standing with respect to the rest of the baseball world. Sure I want him to be healthy this year and next, but even if he isn’t his contract was a turning point in the course of the Kansas City Royals. Just like the Sweeney contract, the Meche contract is about so much more than just the money. What remains to be seen is whether or not the Meche contract will lead to other major signings or if it will stand alone like Sweeney’s did.
I’m hoping for the best. For Gil Meche’s career and the Royals I want everything to be okay. What I want to happen isn’t going to change the fact that I have a feeling that we just lost our #2 starter to the DL for part, or all, of the 2010 season. I hope I am wrong.
Nick over at Royals Authority covered this topic in an article earlier today, and did an excellent job in the process. I recommend you check it out.