Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayLast week, La Velle E. Neal III reported that the Twins have hired a biomechanics expert with a Ph.D. in motor behavior, naming him "motion performance coach."
"[Martin] Verhoeven will study the mechanics of Twins hitters and pitchers and look for ways to make them more efficient," writes Neal. "While seeking optimal performance from their players, the Twins also hope to detect warning signs in their movements that could help them avoid injuries down the road."
Count this as another forward-thinking, innovative move from the front office to improve long-term player health outcomes. As Twins fans are painfully aware, injuries can derail not only a season, but a career.
And the most frustrating thing about them is how utterly powerless and defenseless we can feel against their spontaneous will. For the most part.
No, the Twins couldn't have done much to prevent Mitch Garver from taking a foul ball to the mask on September 12th, sustaining a concussion that scarily continues to affect him. They really couldn't have stopped Miguel Sano from banging up his knee on a slide into second on September 4th.
Could they maybe have avoided Rosario collapsing onto the field Monday night, having worsened a quad issue that was still known to be hampering him? And might Byron Buxton's season have gone a little more smoothly if he hadn't tried to play through a broken toe and then, later, an ailing wrist?
I bring these examples up not to condemn the Twins, but to make a point about the inexact science of sports medicine. Minnesota's training and medical staffs have almost entirely turned over since the days of Joe Mauer's infamous "bilateral leg weakness" diagnosis, yet the familiar barbs from certain corners keep on.
Here's the thing: players wanna play. And any big-leaguer will tell you that by the latter stages of the season, there's no such thing as 100%. It's hard to tell Rosario or Buxton or Sano they need to sit when they fully insist they're ready to rock, and the medical reports don't raise blatant red flags.
But it's up to the coaches and front office to see the bigger picture and make smart choices. In a completely lost season, one does wonder about the wisdom of putting Rosario in the outfield even while acknowledging he's dinged up.
One also wonders about the real upside in acquiescing to Sano's pleas to return to the lineup for a dozen meaningless games, two weeks after being carted off the field. That left leg cost him virtually an entire offseason of conditioning, and arguably torpedoed his 2018 campaign. Why mess with it?
The Twins are, demonstrably, striving to become more sophisticated and effective in their management of player health. This season has tested them to the extreme on that front. Hopefully it'll end up being a productive learning experience.
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