Keep Watch Over K-Rod’s Ankle Injury

It is reported today that Francisco Rodriguez has been struggling with an ankle injury since late 2007, and it is believed to be causing him pain that is leading to him altering his mechanics while on the mound. This ankle injury was never really talked about last season, so he must have kept it a secret.

Looking at his 2007 splits on a month-by-month basis, it appears that the injury could have occurred in July or August.

July: 9.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 10 K, 3.86 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .235 BAA
August: 13.0 IP, 10 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 3.46 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .200 BAA
September: 10.2 IP, 7 H, 7 BB, 17 K, 2.53 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .184 BAA

While these numbers don’t look so bad, especially the batting average allowed and strikeout totals, you have to understand how ridiculously good his career numbers have been. For reference, here are his career numbers:

July: 61.2 IP, 75 K, 2.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .196 BAA
August: 63.2 IP, 76 K, 2.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .181 BAA
September: 74.2 IP, 116 K, 1.93 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .167 BAA

Wow. The discrepancy is easy to see now, is it not? Clearly, something was affecting the pitching performance of K-Rod.

According to Lyle Spencer of MLB.com: Francisco Rodriguez (ankle) said he has been using a more compact delivery to soften the landing of his left ankle that has been giving him problems.

“Before, I used to be more open, swinging my leg around. I’m trying to take a little pressure off my left ankle. It’s been really painful after every outing. That’s because my delivery was so violent. The trainers [Ned Bergert and Rick Smith] have been doing a great job with exercises, putting tape on it. As long as I do my treadmill—exercises to make it stronger—I’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal. I just have to make sure not to land so hard. It’s the only change I’ve made. Now [the delivery] is more on a line, not toward first base. Now it’s quick, short, let it go,” Rodriguez said.

The problem with changing your mechanics due to a foot problem is that your body coordinates movements based on information it receives from other body parts, particularly your feet, eyes, and spine. Your feet are your body’s primary interaction with the ground, and when your ankle is injured, and you are landing differently, you are going to throw differently because your body is going to recruit the stabilizing muscles of your spine, shoulder, hips, etc. in a different manner—or not at all. The body is not going to be stabilized properly. The nervous system picks up on the pain, and creates a “new” way for your body to move. This can lead to further pathology and injury.

If his ankle is still bothering him, and is changing how he is throwing, you can easily see how there would be concern for injury to other body parts, particularly his shoulder or elbow, or perhaps something else.

Be very cautious here. It may sound like an innocent problem, but all K-Rod owners should have Shields and Speier on speed dial in case he starts complaining of shoulder soreness or stiffness as a result of his altered mechanics. If last season’s splits are any indication—and they very well may be—K-Rod could be in for a down year, in the realm of a 3.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Bet you wish you waited to select your closers later in the draft, huh?

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