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January 29, 2014

Painting the Black

Blistery Science Theater

by R.J. Anderson


When it comes to pitching injuries, none is easier to relate to than the blister. Almost everyone has had one, which is more than can be written about a torn elbow ligament or a frayed labrum. Yet the accessibility and commonness of the blister hasn't led to a sea of information; pertinent details—like why certain pitchers seem predisposed to suffering from repeat cases, and how those pitchers can be identified ahead of time—remain unknown.

Perhaps it's because the treasure isn't worth the hunt. If a pitcher shreds his elbow, he'll miss a season; if a the tip of a pitcher's finger bubbles, he might miss a start—in 2013, Miguel Gonzalez was the lone big-league pitcher to spend time on the disabled list due to one. It's no surprise then that the average article about blisters focuses on the myriad (and often zany!) ways pitchers treat them. Take the Wall Street Journal's detailed breakdown of C.J. Wilson, the league's leader in blisters since 2009, for example:

"In addition to shaving the blister, Wilson coats it in superglue, smears ointment on it, soaks it in iodine and a low-pH solution to prevent infections, and runs a LiteCure laser over the area to promote skin growth. As a teenager, he said, he once ripped off his entire fingerprint, and he has to be careful even now not to worsen the blister whenever he tends to it."

Likewise, Josh Beckett's various attempts were adventurous enough to make Sports Illustrated:

It sounds like he's tried everything. He's soaked his hands in clubhouse staples like pickle brine. He's thought about changing the way he grips the ball. He tried wearing a sock on his throwing hand when he long-tossed between starts. He's consulted with burn doctors in Miami on ways to strengthen his skin. For a time last year he had success with something called Stan's Rodeo Cream, a gooey brown ointment invented by Dodgers trainer and former rodeo cowboy Stan Johnston.

However enlightening (and disgusting) those pieces are, they leave us without an important part of the story: Why, exactly, those pitchers are victims of spotty skin.

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Related Content:  Injuries,  Blisters

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Scouting the Draft: Po... (01/29)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Painting the Black: Sm... (01/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Sl... (02/07)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Throw the Flag (01/29)

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