New strength, conditioning programs aimed at cutting down on injuries
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres and general manager Josh Byrnes haven't left any stone unturned as they've gone about looking at their training methods to see if there's any connection to the rash of injuries the team has incurred the last two seasons.
"We've changed our field composition on Field 1 and Field 2," Byrnes said of the Padres' main practice fields in Peoria. "As an infielder, you're on the field a lot. We wondered if there was anything we could do to give them a better chance to avoid leg injuries."
What has Byrnes learned so far?
"I understand more about the silt-to-clay ratio than ever," he said, smiling.
To be sure, the Padres' recent string of injuries, mostly, though not exclusive to upper extremities, has been no laughing matter for the organization.
Since 2012, the team has had six players undergo reconstructive elbow surgery. Cory Luebke has been the unlucky recipient of two procedures, one in 2012 and again last week, when he needed to have the same surgery after his body rejected the graft he received two years ago.
San Diego pitchers Casey Kelly (2012), Luebke (2012, '14), Joe Wieland ('12), Juan Pablo Oramas ('12), Jason Marquis ('13) and outfielder Rymer Liriano ('13) have all missed considerable playing time after surgery.
Obviously, there's been some bad luck involved. Liriano, for example, tore his ulnar collateral ligament while simply playing catch at home in the Dominican Republic.
"When you hear the answer that, 'This is how we've always done it and we've been healthy for this many years,' ... it makes you think this is a stretch of bad luck," Byrnes said. "But, I think it invites the question of, 'Can we do better?'"
That's why the Padres have gone to great lengths to look at every aspect of their training program. The team hired Brett McCabe as its strength and conditioning coach prior to last season and then added Jordan Wolf to the Minor League side.
"There's a little different emphasis there," Byrnes said.
McCabe and Wolf's program for players centers on injury prevention, through a number of methods.
"It's postural analysis, how your body moves, nutrition, deep tissue massage ... not as much as far as heavy lifting," Byrnes said. "We're really trying to prevent these injuries before they happen."
Physical therapist Rick Stauffer has taken on an expanded role as the coordinator of medical services for the team.
"He's become the center wheel as far as caring for the player, [consulting on potential acquisitions, looking at the medical side]. He works with [head trainer Todd Hutcheson] a lot. He's sort of become the nerve center."
It's not just elbows that have caused the Padres fits. There's been lower-extremity injuries, too. Carlos Quentin (knee) has had three surgeries since he joined the team. Everth Cabrera (hamstring), Jedd Gyorko (strained groin) and Huston Street (strained calf) were on the disabled list a year ago.
In a big-picture sense, Byrnes said the Padres really haven't dramatically changed what they've done in the past. But there is a more keen focus on what's being done in terms of getting players ready to play.
"Philosophically, I wouldn't say that we've changed that much," Byrnes said. "But it's a more heightened awareness about every issue people talking about; game throwing, non-game throwing, workload, long toss, the number of breaking balls a guy throws, things like that.
"Every throw counts, and we need to be aware of that."