By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN, Fla. _ After being all-state, all-conference and all that, most who exceed in the majors reach a point where they feel bullet proof.
So, when Marcus Stroman’s left knee buckled and he tore his ACL he could not have been blamed for lying on the training table, closing his eyes and asking himself?
“Why me? This never happens to anyone.”
It happened to lefty Scott Barnes, who was quick to tell Stroman Wednesday morning in the Jays’ trainer’s room.
Barnes gave Stroman all the details, how the lefty
Tore his own ACL …
His left knee …
When fielding a bunt …
Pitching for triple-A Columbus in the Cleveland Indians system against Toledo in 2011.
“It was my last hitter, in the last start before the all-star break,” said Barnes. “I started and was at about 110 pitches when Cale Iorg bunted down the third base line leading off the seventh.”
Barnes went over to make the play, his knee locked and down he went.
He was able to walk off the field but as soon as the adrenalin of pitching in a game faded and he was lying on his back on the trainer’s table, he knew.
He’d blown out his knee.
Barnes told Stroman how he has surgery on his left knee in late July and the next spring in Arizona he was ready to take on the full work load of all the healthy the Indians starters were given by the pitching coach.
“The reason I told him was that I wanted to give him a little more confidence,” said Barnes.
The day before Stroman headed out to the turf field for another round of PFPs (pitcher’s fielding practice) he was at his locker dancing, singing every word of a song on the radio. It was not George Strait on the jute box.
He was not a man who needed any confidence.
The youngster didn’t have a care in the world until the bunt drill.
That all changed when he went to field the roller in the simulated bunt defence, the kind every team works on during the spring on back fields in Arizona and Florida.
Barnes 2-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 31 games, making three starts, for Columbus in 2012. He also got the call to the majors, appearing in 16 games in relief for the Indians with a 4.26 ERA.
“I was back in six months, throwing off flat ground in four months and off the mound in five months,” said Barnes.
As one the lefty and scribe began to tick off six months worth of fingers on their respective hands at the same time — April, May, June, July, August and September. Barnes won the race.
That would mean Stroman, if he had the same recovery time as Barnes, would be ready to be on the mound on Sept. 10. Without throwing a pitch since this week he would need at least a month to build up his arm strength … which takes the rehab into October.
There is a reason spring training is six weeks long: it’s not for the hitters (who probably only need two weeks) it’s for the pitchers.
“Marcus should take every precaution, he’ll have more time,” Barnes said. “I had spring training as a goal to shoot towards.
“They may have made medical advancements since 2011, I’m not sure. The operation has a high success rate,”
Barnes was 3-3 with a 7.81 ERA in 23 games at Columbus in 2013 and 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA for the Indians in six games.
Then, Barnes was 3-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 25 games at Columbus, his fourth year there making him eligible to vote in the municipal elections.
So, there is an opening for a lefty like Barnes.
If he doesn’t make the opening day roster, Barnes should know that he has made a friend in Stroman.