Here's a story we didn't want to read, within a week of pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. Fernando Rodney's shoulder is hurting.
And according to Rodney, the pain feels much like the same thing that landed him on the disabled list last June. The bullpen was already a concern for the Detroit Tigers going into this season. If their set-up guy has to deal with shoulder problems throughout the year, that anxiety might escalate into full-blown panic.
But I think it's an encouraging sign that Rodney told the team he was feeling pain right away, rather than try to pitch through it. That's exactly the sort of mentality that put him on the DL twice last season. And several other pitchers on the staff got themselves into trouble by approaching their injuries the same way.
I have no idea if this is something Jim Leyland has brought up (or will bring up) with his pitchers, but in talking about the Tigers with a few fellow bloggers over the past week or so, I think it's going to be a prevalent theme during this season. Too many guys tried to pitch through pain last season and either burdened the team with poor performances or caused themselves greater injury. Jeremy Bonderman is a name that immediately springs to mind. But Rodney's right up there, too. And don't forget Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson.
So it's not too difficult to imagine Leyland and his coaching staff telling his pitchers the following: Don't try to pitch through pain. If your arm hurts, say something. Don't try to be a hero. The season's too long, and the organization has enough depth to cover someone who needs a start or a few days off.
When Josh Beckett admits that taking some time off during the season rejuvenated him for the Red Sox's playoff drive and postseason, maybe that's an indication to teams like the Tigers that giving guys a break when they're wearing down isn't a bad thing. The starters ran out of gas last year, and it may have cost them a playoff spot. I don't think we should be surprised if we see a few Detroit pitchers sit out a start or go on the DL with the good ol' "tired arm" during the season, in an attempt to keep them fresh for the stretch run.
Rodney might be starting a trend for the Tigers' pitching staff. And it could pay dividends by September and October.