MLB’s oblique injury epidemic may be traced to creatine

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If we had to identify the three most common themes of the 2011 season thus far, it’d read something like this: rainouts, flu viruses and oblique injuries.

The first can be explained rather easily. Spring is a wet season in almost every part of the baseball-watching world and North America has been pounded by several major storm systems this year.

The second is a little trickier, but influenza is influenza and it tends to spread pretty quickly.

The third? … well … listen to this:

According to Christian Red of the New York Daily News, sports physician Dr. Lewis Maharam has discovered that the upswing in oblique strains across Major League Baseball can probably be traced back to the legal dietary supplement creatine.

Creatine adds water molecules to muscle fibers, which can cause those fibers to separate.

“This makes for easier muscle tears and slows the repair process, leaving them on injured reserve longer,” Maharam says. “It is because of these side effects that professionals for a long time went away from creatine when they could use anabolics and HGH. Now that testing is stronger, I have seen a trend back toward the safer creatine.”

Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Jason Bay, Angel Pagan, J.A. Happ, Ronny Paulino, Fred Lewis, Jon Garland, J.J. Hardy and Erick Aybar have all been plagued by oblique issues in one form or another this season. And they’re far from alone.

Creatine, at least to this point, is not banned by baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL or the NCAA.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.