The Baseball Game You Don’t See

Posted by on May 26th, 2015  •  0 Comments  • 

These are indeed trying times for the Padres, where they are in the standings, what was expected, and what is happening on the field.
But Padres baseball is more than this 4th place record, this sub-500 season so far.  It’s more than just Matt Kemp losing 70-points off his batting average in the month of May.  More than hot-and-cold starting pitching, or up and down relief pitching.  More than a  two season drought like slump to Jedd Gyorko or the injuries to their two first baseman.
No, Padres baseball is also about setbacks, not in the standings, but to those pitchers trying to comeback from surgeries.
Josh Johnson has been shutdown a third time this spring, trying to comeback from forearm surgery, after having come back from bone chip elbow surgery.
Corey Luebke has just begun the process of throwing live batting practice at extended spring training, slowly coming back from back-to-back elbow ligament transplant surgery.
Casey Kelly is buried in the bullpen in San Antonio, trying to come back from two years of elbow woes too.
The starts and stops of pitchers in rehab are numbing, to an organization that hopes all three can get back to past levels of performance.  Hard on the team, disappointing for the fans, but think about the hurlers themselves.
Josh Johnson is fiery, combative, competitive.  It has been awhile since he went (31-14) in a two plus year of dominance pitching for the Florida Marlins.  He has known nothing but setbacks since he went to Toronto.  He’s earned 9-million from the Padres, but hasn’t pitched a regular season inning yet in two years.
He looked all the way back, coming off bone chip elbow surgery,  after good outings in the Cactus League in 2014, then encountered forearm problems.  Another surgical procedure, and now this series of setbacks.  Within a month, tricep issues, soreness above the right elbow, and now a neck issue.
Luebke showed so much promise so early, he was given a 5-year contract.  He promptly broke down, after never having had arm problems.  A torn elbow ligament was finally diagnosed, and the Tommy John procedure.  But the ligament graft did not take, and after a full year or rehab, another surgery, and another long off season with trainers and doctors.  He is throwing now, but is still a long way from being major league ready.
Kelly came in the original Adrian Gonzalez trade.  A torn ligament, then a stress fracture in the elbow a year after the operation.  It has been a slow rebound for him, but at least he is pitching in San Antonio.  Some good outings, some rocky outings.  One time you look at his numbers and you see an ERA of 9.00.  Two weeks later, he has reduced it to 3.60, but he is constantly being monitored.  You never know if there will be a problem the next time they give him the ball.  He’s a long way from the mound in San Diego, and I’m not talking airline mileage.
The Padres have so much tied up in arms trying to get healthy.  The mental strength it takes to cut loose, and hope you don’t get cut down by another injury is something.  The constant worry does this pain after pitching mean there are more problems?  JJ, Luebke, Kelly are members of the organization, but are really an island unto themselves, at least till they prove they can pitch again without pain.
There’s more to baseball in San Diego than games with the Dodgers-Giants-Angels.  The Padres season is such a grind.  And rehab is such a long, lonely road too.

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