John Maine’s Arm

Mets pitcher John Maine pitching in Jupiter, FL in February 2008. Photo by Joe Janish
After hearing that John Maine’s shoulder issues are compounded by a bone spur — and that his season may be in doubt — I thought it made sense to check with an expert on the subject.

Ironically, former Mets trainer Bob Sikes had already posted an enlightening article titled “The Bad Signs Regarding John Maine’s Shoulder” on his own blog Getting Paid to Watch.

From his article:

… a spur is almost best-case scenario as it’s easily shaved down through a scope. If there is minimal soft tissue damage, he could be back to full strength by spring training.

But what to do now?

It hurts and he is unable to throw between starts. Not throwing on the side often leads to performances like last night. It’s a routine he won’t be able to sustain. Although he had good velocity last night, he displayed poor command and had no movement on his fastball.

If he is unusually sore this morning, the Mets will know its not going its not going to work. The spur might be causing soft tissue damage and they will need to shut him down for the year to have the surgery and begin the rehab.

Ouch … and I mean that both literally AND figuratively.

Now that we know the possibilities ahead, it makes some sense to understand why this happened in the first place — so that it can be avoided in the future.
You may know I’ve been concerned with John Maine’s mechanics since July (OK, maybe obsessed). Through an interview on Live From Mickey Mantle’s and email correspondence over the weekend, Bob confirmed that the bone spur and the rotator cuff strain are probably related, and that both injuries could also have been the result of a mechanical flaw — though, he adds that the flaw may have been caused by the injury, rather than the other way around.

According to Bob:

… I’d imagine it was the weakness/discomfort in his shoulder led to the mechanical flaws … my best guess is that the spur is embedded in a tendon and probably developed slowly over the past year in much the same manner as does a heel spur. Wear and tear and inflammatory response to overuse is what causes spurs to pop up.

I don’t see him getting better. Not being able to throw between starts indicates pain which further puts him in a position for further poor mechanics and an increase in the likelihood of further injury. I like shutting him down and fixing it.

None of this is encouraging news for those who want to see John Maine on the mound again in 2008. But more to the point, it seems of utmost importance that Maine work under the supervision of a trained eye during his rehab, to ensure that bad habits in his delivery are ironed out.

Which brings up another interesting point: while Oliver Perez has benefited from the easygoing, hands-off coaching style of Dan Warthen, is it possible that the loss of structure and rigidity in preparation under Rick Peterson is part of Maine’s downfall — and his injury? Let’s not forget that Maine’s less-than-stellar second half of 2007 could be blamed on — by Maine’s own admission — not sticking to the strict workout schedule prescribed by The Jacket.

Whatever is to blame, the bottom line is, we should expect to move on to the end of 2008 without John Maine as an asset. As a result — and as Bob Sikes suggests — Jon Niese could be up here before September.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude August 25, 2008 at 11:44 am
    Relatively speaking, I’ll take a bone spur over a tear in the rotator cuff any day of the week. Still, it sounds as though rest will not cure what ails John Maine, so it’s wisest to put him under the knife ASAP so that he’s back to full strength by March. Unless Brian Stokes takes his spot start against Florida coming up and runs with the opportunity, it looks very much like Jon Niese is going to be getting thrust into the pennant race after all. Perhaps his showing over the final month of the season will dictate how heavily the Mets attempt to resign Ollie this offseason.
  2. joe August 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm
    Well, the scary thing is that he has BOTH a spur AND an issue in the rotator — and one may have caused the other. I’m not even sure why the Mets are considering anything other than shutting him down at this point — unless they are trying to make a deal for someone like Jarrod Washburn and don’t want to lose leverage.

    Agreed, though — time to bring up Niese and see what he can do. If he comes up now he’ll be eligible for postseason in the event he looks that good.

    Good point on Ollie … scary for the Wilpons … Boras is going to start the bidding at 6 years / $100M … and someone will be dumb enough to give it to him.

  3. RockStar78 August 25, 2008 at 12:39 pm
    Joe, regarding Ollie, do you see anything different with his mechanics since he started pitching better after Peterson left? I am curious if his issues in the first half was physical or mental.
  4. joe August 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm
    The main thing with Ollie is Dan Warthen made him rock back behind the rubber rather than to the side. Starting his motion back promotes a forward and backward momentum rather than a side-to-side, and gives Perez a better chance to stay on a straight path toward the plate. This in turn keeps his front shoulder from opening too early and his arm from going too sideways — the sideways motion leads to flat sliders instead of biting ones downward.

    The change in motion definitely helped, but he pitched well last year so it wasn’t all that. My feeling is that Warthen has Ollie thinking less and just “going”. Plus confidence is EVERYTHING, and Ollie had lost it prior to The Jacket’s departure. The rocking back thing allowed Ollie to focus on just one thing instead of ten, and after pitching a few good games, his confidence has reached an all-time high.

    His mechanics aren’t perfect, though, and I’d hesitate before giving him more than a 3-year deal.

  5. Micalpalyn August 25, 2008 at 1:04 pm
    guys: This is difficult. Maine IS our #2 starter. When healthy he is an ace. This to me explains his somewhat mediiocre performances or erratic games. I mean last time out 2hits?

    I agree with a DL stint again. Last time he came back with 2 good performances. BUT i think he could pitch in post season, if as is said with rest the inflammation goes down. Right now the other 4 starters are doing well enough. I’d also like a look at Niese.

    Ollie: I see the Zito rule: 5yrs/75-80M with options. As far as pitching it is said Warthen has him work differently by changing speeds. Peterson had him working the sides. When i ‘watched’ his first game (with Warthen) the gamechannel seem to have him throwing to the same zone repeatedly, whereas with Perterson we called him wild because he was all over the place. In retrospect maybe he cant hit the corners as Peterson asked him to as so could not ‘find’ the strikezone (especially the small ones). Now he can ‘throw’ with less emphasis on location and more on delivery and pitch selection… i close?

  6. joe August 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm
    Mic, I think you are on target. Warthen’s philosophy is to simplify things as much as possible, and get pitchers to find whatever it is they do best and stick with it. In other words, working with your strengths, rather than toward others’ vulnerabilities.

    In addition, he tends to believe that you should not worry so much about your own weaknesses, but instead continue to improve your strengths. This is not a new concept, just an alternate to the opposite philosophy of improving your weaknesses until they become a strength.

    That said, Ollie has likely been focusing on throwing specific pitches to specific locations most of the time, rather than trying to be a “complete” pitcher who can hit all areas of the strike zone.

    There’s something to be said for each philosophy, and it really depends on the individual.

  7. RockStar78 August 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm
    That sounds a lot like what Pelfrey has been doing since his turnaround. He’s even said he stopped trying to make the “perfect pitch” and has been just throwing pitches with conviction. It also seems he has been less focused on his offspeed stuff and only throwing it for show. I remember a post game interview last year after a game he lost, and he mentioned a few times how he had pretty good control of his off speed stuff, almost as if he went to the mound that night focusing on throwing his offspeed stuff for strikes (a weakness of his) instead of getting people out with his bread and butter.
  8. sincekindergarten August 25, 2008 at 4:01 pm
    BTW, MetsBlog has a story that Maine has been placed on the 15-day DL. My thought is that Brian Stokes would take Maine’s start in Florida. I want to see Niese, too, and Brandon Knight, as well as Bobby Parnell.