By Erin K. Blakeley, Shoulder1 Staff
Alex Fernandez is one of the more patient pitchers in baseball. He would have to be, to battle the injured shoulder that has plagued him in the last few years.
The right-handed pitcher’s trouble dates all the way back to the National League Championship series in 1997, during which he strained his rotator cuff. The injury was serious enough to cause Fernandez to sit out the World Series, and miss the entire 1998 baseball season.
1999 was a good year for Fernandez. He returned to action and was named the National League Comeback player of the Year, with a 3.38 ERA and a 7-8 record. However, his rotator cuff continued to plague him, and after earning a 4-4 record in just 8 starts, he finished last season on the disabled list. He underwent rotator cuff surgery in the off-season, his second surgical procedure in less than three years.
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that connect the four muscles of the upper shoulder to the bones. The strength of the rotator cuff allows for the lifting motion and rotation of the upper arm, or the humerus. Not only does a rotator cuff strain or tear cause a substantial amount of pain, it hampers the range of motion in the shoulder joint. For a pitcher, the restriction of this range of motion can be career threatening.
For the last six weeks, Fernandez has been making about two dozen mid-range pitches, three times a week, as part of his rehabilitation program. While he is optimistic about his return, Fernandez is guarded about the possibility of taking the mound again. “I still want to get back on the mound, and I’m trying every avenue possible,” Fernandez reported to the Associated Press in his first press appearance since his last surgery. “It’s been a long haul. People think it’s only been a year, but it’s been since October 1997. It’s a lot of wear and tear mentally.”
If all goes well, Fernandez will take the mound for the Marlins again in the near future.