We get up in arms about testosterone and HGH — substances our bodies naturally produce and which have few serious side effects or long-lasting consequences — because they’re on a banned list. Meanwhile there’s a drug that a lot of athletes take under the direction and supervision of their teams which can kill people and is banned in several countries: the anti-inflammatory Toradol.
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston has a story about its use in baseball. The hook: an interview with Jonathan Papelbon who took it routinely when he was with the Red Sox but who was told by the Phillies that he can no longer take it as they do not allow it. Edes looks into the controversial drug, notes its serious side effects, which can include internal bleeding (Clay Buchholz believes it’s what led to him contracting esophagitis which landed him in the ICU) and notes that it’s banned in several countries, for athletes and normal folks alike.
Papelbon’s description of its use in Major League Baseball is pretty familiar-sounding: it’s taken before the game to help guys “get through a 162 game season.” It’s, by definition, a performance enhancing drug. It’s letting guys do things they otherwise couldn’t do. Allowing their bodies to recover faster which allows them to train harder and compete at a more intense level than they otherwise could. Except it’s not on a banned list so no one cares despite the fact that it has the potential to kill you.
There is a tremendous disconnect between the drugs people think are awful in sports and the drugs that truly have the potential to be harmful. This is maybe the best example. Might be nice if we thought about our priorities about these things once in a while.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.