The Cincinnati Reds struggled to score runs in 2014, and their middle relief corps struggled to stop runs. A large part of those problems have been chalked up to injuries, but could the Reds have exacerbated the situation by rushing their players back into play too soon after being hurt? Based on the comments of former Reds hurler Mat Latos to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that is a distinct possibility.
More from Cincinnati Reds
- Johnny Cueto Trade: Reds Winners?
- Reds Recap: Win to Start the 2nd Half
- Does MLB Enslave Pete Rose?
- ICYMI: MLB All Star Weekend
- Reds Recap: Brewers’ Fireworks
When Rosenthal asked if the Reds played a part in Latos’ coming back too quickly from meniscus surgery in his left knee last season, Latos initially said he didn’t want to touch that question but then dove in:
"I was told that I needed to start doing activities at a minimum of 10 days after surgery. They had me throwing on the fifth day after surgery. Then they had me running the seventh day after surgery. Then I was already lifting 10 days after surgery."
For his part, Latos admits that he wanted to jump back into play as soon as possible last June to help the struggling team and maybe salvage a season that began with high hopes.
Latos also pointed out that first baseman Joey Votto tried to return quickly from injury and, when Rosenthal pointed out that rightfielder Jay Bruce did likewise, Latos said, “There seems to be a trend going on there.”
All of this could easily be viewed as some sort of sour grapes from a player who was traded in the off-season to the Miami Marlins. In fact, Latos does not sound too happy with any of his teams, saying that the San Diego Padres reneged on a promise not to trade him and that he feels like a pawn after going through arbitration with the Marlins this winter.
Still, it’s undeniable that the Reds were plagued by injuries last season and that multiple key players were ineffective even when they were on the field. Could it be that the team is systematically putting guys back on the field sooner than their bodies are ready, in the name of trying to compete?
Beyond the evidence that cases like Latos’ bring forth, you have to consider the team brass in trying to answer this sort of question. Owner Bob Castellini is in his 70s now and wants to bring a championship to Cincinnati, especially with the All-Star game coming to town in 2015. General manager Walt Jocketty seems unwilling to commit to a rebuild even in the face of these injuries and an aging roster, undoubtedly feeling Castellini’s pressure and the need to cement his own legacy in Cincy.
It’s hard to imagine that Castellini, Jocketty, manager Bryan Price or the Reds’ medical and training staff would intentionally endanger a player’s health for the purposes of getting him back on the field, but competitive pressure is intense at the top levels of all professions. Major League players, for the most part, want to be on the field, and their natural inclination is to get back out there as soon as possible.
It would not be far-fetched to imagine a team keying off a player’s enthusiasm to return and rushing him back into action, maybe before his body is ready. The Reds need to guard against that temptation, especially with their current aging roster, because it’s a road to disappointment.