A collective panic attack broke out across the Halosphere yesterday after Shohei Ohtani’s early exit against Boston.
By Stu Matthews | @stumatthews11
An unofficial panel of coaches who know a helluva lot about baseball and the modern game are happy to reassure you about Ohtani's blister: "Nothing to see here" sums up the consensus.
The official tweet from the Angels’ PR Department said Ohtani was pulled early as a precaution against a blister on his middle right finger. The Angels were wisely careful with their two-way star, who will feature as DH again on Thursday.
Angels pitching coach Charlie Nagy was unavailable for comment, maybe because he’s in church?
But other knowledgeable baseball men were happy to offer their points of view.
Kurt Russell, head coach at Western Oklahoma State College (a juco powerhouse where Andrelton Simmons starred before turning pro), said blisters are just part of modern pitching, particularly early in the season, when pitchers haven’t thrown enough deliveries to have hardened up callouses on their pitching fingers.
"You need strong hands to avoid blisters, and when guys are throwing as hard as they do, it comes with the territory," Russell said. "The natural thing is to try to grip the ball harder, dig in the fingernails, and with the low seams, guys are really digging in."
Two-time All-Star lefty Al Leiter told Eric Nusbaum of VICE Sports: "Have you ever had a blister on your foot, and you don't have a Band-Aid, and you're walking? Now you got a limp."
Leiter said his most vulnerable finger was the middle, because his four-seamer, slider and cutter came off that finger.
And despite the report of a damaged UCL, Ohtani's arm looks just fine.
Speak to the hand.
Ohtani was repeatedly blowing on his hand on Tuesday, trying to get enough traction so that he could use that splitter. He could not.
Boston’s excellent hitting lineup knew that Ohtani was working with only part of his awesome arsenal. He could throw two of his plus pitches – the four-seamer and the slider, but the Ohtani’s devastating splitter, his out pitch, hurt too much for the Angels’ young star.
Ohtani may has been hitting 100 miles an hour on the radar gun with the four-seamer, but the Red Sox knew that the splitter wasn’t there. So they waited, and batters like Mookie Betts, who hit three homers Tuesday, is a very good hitter.
The splitter Ohtani buried in the dirt was unhittable was now going for wild pitches.
For the heck of it, try running the bottom of your middle finger against a zipper (like the seams on a baseball) then see how it feels. It’ll hurt like hell, because the middle finger for the splitter grip is directly on a seam – then delivered with max velocity.
If you’re really into pain, try rubbing sandpaper on the bottom of your finger. You – like Ohtani – will develop a blister.
David Price, Ohtani’s opponent on Tuesday, has suffered in the past.
"Blisters, ugh," said Cole Meyer, who runs a personal coaching academy in Thousand Oaks, CA. "I work with pitchers of all ages, but I advise my students to avoid trying to throw a split-finger until their hands are big enough to do it. Or later in the season."
I’m a former shortstop who messed around with pitching after high school, so I know some grips. I can’t execute the motion, but I can speak from experience that trying throw a splitter hurts.
"Heck no, as a shortstop, you’re just trying to find the handle and get rid of it quick," Russell said. "The worst you’re gonna get playing short are those cracks on your fingers like paper cuts."
OK, we know the problem. So now what’s the cure? Manning-up is one theory.
Russell faces this dilemma with his hard-throwers every season, especially in early spring, when the air is dry. It’s blister season.
"Well, down here, we rely on an old-school remedy -- Pickle juice," Russell says. "Heck, it worked for Nolan Ryan."
I was curious about this, so I asked the Western Oklahoma coach about the logistics of the pickle-juice-cures-blisters trick.
"Nobody knows for sure, really," Russell said. "Works for us, though. The blisters go away, the finger gets stronger. The idea is to toughen it up."
Consider my mind opened.
"Well, we get it from our concession stands. We sell a lot of pickles at game there … burgers, hot dogs, etc. The pickles come in big old jars. Once the pickles are gone, they save the pickle juice.
"Any guy who’s got a blister is gonna stick his finger in that pickle juice for a while."
Jeepers, Coach, I said. That must hurt like hell.
"Yep, but not as bad as the blister."
Any other folksy remedies out there? Well, there’s Super Glue … And:
"Well, some pitchers swear by peeing on their hands. But that sounds a little nasty to me." Possibly too much information, but I can do that sometimes by accident.
"Well, some pitchers swear by peeing on their hands. But that sounds a little nasty to me."
Father Time also works. But Shohei Ohtani has already demonstrated he was impatient to get to MLB.
Mike Scioscia said Wednesday that Ohtani is anticipated to make his next start.