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Durability has been one of lefty's most valuable assets, but elbow inflammation calls it into question
Matt Thornton roared into Camelback Ranch feeling so fit I half-expected him to start selling NutriBullets in the employee parking lot. On Tuesday, we learned he won't be pitching anything for a while thanks to a sore elbow.
At the moment, the news could be worse. An MRI revealed inflammation, but no structural damage, which is good. But Robin Ventura didn't go too far to downplay it, so there seems to be no definitive take:
"He just said he didn't feel right," Ventura said. "We have so much time down here, it's safer to slow him down and get him out of drills and make sure he's comfortable before he continues on.
"You're concerned every time a guy has that. I'm not sure what level he's at, but again, the beauty of being down here so early is that you can give him the time off and he can catch up and there's nothing wrong with it."
If we know one thing about Thornton, he's pretty good at keeping tabs on his physical state. He hasn't been afraid to ask for days off in the past, and as we learned during SoxFest, he's also taken it upon himself to be a voice for the meeker overused reliever.
His elbow did put him on the DL before. Back in 2010, a slow-building pain in his elbow and forearm gradually became too much to pitch through in late August. Here's how he described the problem in a Daily Herald story from Aug. 25, 2010:
Thornton had an MRI on Monday, and no structural damage was discovered.
There were fluids in the elbow, but they were removed with medication.
"It’s a typical pitching elbow and there’s no problem at all for any kind of career_ending thing," Thornton said. "So that’s kind of a relief for me and my family that there’s nothing major wrong.
"It’s just a matter of getting the irritation out of there, and I’m guessing the fluid was causing the muscles to spasm up and act up and that was the problem I was having. It’s flushed out of there, so go forward from here."
Thornton came back to have an incredible September, so that DL stint has remained but a blip during a durable career. In fact, that forearm/elbow problem was only his second-scariest injury of the year.
MLB.tv won't allow me to watch the ninth inning from the May 15, 2010 game -- which would seem like the most absurd complaint 10 years ago, right? -- but I remember him awkwardly releasing a pitch and clutching his arm afterward, in a fashion that Jake Peavy would take to another level the following month. Herm Schneider came out, and after tending to it for a minute, he laughed it off and completed the inning for the save. It was a triceps spasm, and Ozzie Guillen kept him out of action the next week.
So perhaps this elbow soreness is nothing to worry about in the long run. Although when reading that Thornton's weight loss was partially born out of a desire to hold up better on back-to-back days, there's reason to believe Ventura's unofficial description of "old arm" might be more accurate than it seems.