For some strange reason, I have had flexor strains on my mind recently. No idea as to why.
Chris Sale being injured has been a flashpoint of debate for those attempting to clear the thorny trail from irregular pitching motion to injury risk, and those that see the whole practice as a waste of time.
It's an uncertain line of analysis full or projection, and if I'm going to do that, I prefer to haphazardly compare Sale to other recent case of pitchers being given cautious DL stints for flexor strains. The results may be just as depressing, but at least the man will be treated like a normal human being.
The most immediate example I thought of when the news on Sale came across is Gavin Floyd, for obvious and dark reasons. But interestingly, Sale has an immediate counterpart who is only a week or two ahead in his progression.
Latos, 26, was scratched from a recent minor league start and had to cut a bullpen session short on Friday with forearm pain. Forearm issues are usual a symptom of an elbow problem, but, given the circumstances, Latos got off easy.
Latos will be shut down for 10-14 days before he can resume throwing. "
Latos is not a shining example of health, but he's removed from the angst of a unique motion or build. A team like the Reds, while still cautious with an important member of their rotation, have every reason to move Latos toward return if they believe he's structurally intact, and he'd be a fun case to keep an eye on given the similarity in diagnosis. Then again, everyone has already watched Josh Johnson's prognosis decline steadily after a Spring flexor strain, and should be appropriately spooked and cautious.
If nothing else, flexor strain has shown itself to often be an initial diagnosis placed on situations that can become later classified to more serious issues. If Sale is recovering and ready to go in two weeks like he's been all those other times he's received rest, the diagnosis was probably right on. If he's in the same place, paranoia can go into overdrive, if it actually has another gear left.
While we're being cynical, I pondered bypassing Sale anxiety entirely to focus on Dayan Viciedo's hot start. In the first, soul-crushing game in Colorado after Avisail Garcia went, Viciedo went 0-4 with three increasingly hideous strikeouts and every Sox fan felt like they had just been informed that their least favorite cousin was going to be their roommate for their summer. But since then, Viciedo's looked like everything he was replacing: a young, developing corner outfielder slowly realizing his massive offensive potential.
While he fits that definition and is only 25, Viciedo debuted the same year Chris Sale did, his first MLB manager was Ozzie Guillen and he's been here for a while now. There's a reason he's looked upon with a jaundiced eye. Viciedo is hitting .361/.412/.525 through 68 plate appearances.
Not a single element of his performance is statistically reliable after that small of a stretch of play. The batting average is obviously inflated by goofy batted ball luck and the power isn't quite ideal for someone who is physically compared to a tank even by his proponents. But the strikeouts--just 11 in 68 appearances, and only eight outside that stinkbomb in Colorado--are noticeably down. Viciedo's unwillingness to take a pitch and his power production lagging a bit behind his raw strength was a possibility coming in. It's the strikeouts that have really made him awful.
His current 16.2% K-rate would be extremely livable, so I wanted to check if Viciedo had ever put together a stretch like this before and--unfortunately--it was easy to find. Just from April 14 to May 21 last season, Viciedo struck out 10 times over the course of 67 plate appearances, walked eight times and hit .393/.463/.571.
He followed it up by striking out 10 times over the next seven games, and OPS'd .499 from there through the end of June. He's had a streak like this before, and the onus is on him to sustain it. If there's some hope, it's Viciedo's doing his damage so far against righties. He's hitting .409/.435/.591 against them and more importantly has only struck out seven times in 45 appearances. In the past two days alone, he's been remarkable--especially for him--at waiting out right-handers with impressive velocity and driving what does get for authority. Making that improvement real is the difference between looking good in a part-time role and being player worth full-time play.
Avisail Garcia is gone, Chris Sale is on the shelf, and Dayan Viciedo is your player to watch and hope for again. Hope for the best.