What’s the big deal about Bartolo Colon’s stem cell injections?

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There was some moderate-to-serious hand-wringing the other day when it was revealed that Bartolo Colon received an injection of his own stem cells to help repair ligaments.  As David Epstein notes in a very informative article over at SI, however, the hand-wringing is unwarranted.  Colon’s procedure is fairly commonplace and, in its general effect, is no different than microfracture surgery, which no one thinks is a problem.

He likens the response to Colon’s procedure to another procedure — platelet rich plasma therapy — that caused people to freak out a little bit in recent years. In both cases, however, the therapy itself is noncontroversial. The source of the controversy was the doctor at the center of the particular case: Anthony Galea in PRP and Joseph R. Purita in the case of Colon’s stem cell thing.  Galea remains in legal trouble over his alleged use, purchase and transport of HGH. Purita because he admitted that in his non-athlete patients he uses HGH in the stem cell therapy.

Given the level of misinformation and ignorance floating around sports media and among fans when it comes to things like PEDs, it’s not surprising that new-to-us medical procedures lead to raised eyebrows.  But we should all understand that, for the vast majority of us, when we talk about medicine, we really don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.