The Rundown: Wrist Injury Contributed to Heyward’s Struggles, Cubs Part of Special Gift

With obvious exception for those cases in which it’s painfully obvious, professional athletes are loathe to acknowledge that an injury is impacting their performance. Hell, I refused to believe/accept that I had a torn ACL just so I could continue to play high school tennis and basketball. Part of the reticence to admit an issue stems from not wanting to sit or to not wanting to give an opponent any information that could be exploited as a competitive advantage.

But much of it is born from pride and not wanting to use a given injury as a crutch or an excuse. While many would have taken Jason Heyward’s real-time revelation of a balky wrist as a valid explanation for at least part of his poor performance, many more would have taken it as a cop-out or would have assumed that he’d gone soft from sitting on his $184 million cushion. So he held that info back and suffered the criticism.

To be sure, the wrist wasn’t the only part of Heyward’s issue, though one can look at that goofed-up swing and immediately see how some of the flawed mechanics therein might have been exacerbated by favoring the wrist. Far from perfect in the first place, even a small twinge here or there would be like throwing off the timing of one of the early components in a Rube Goldberg device.

“Last year, having the wrist injury, got into a lot of bad habits,” Heyward told Jesse Rogers. “[I] tried to do more and muscle the ball, and even when that went away, I had bad habits and didn’t come out of it.”

If you’ve ever dealt with the aftereffects of a lingering injury, you’ve probably experienced compensatory injuries or little changes to your movement that come from trying to avoid aggravating the primary malady. In many cases, you might not even realize you’re no longer injured because you’ve spent so much time working around the problem that you actually established a new routine.

Such was the case with Heyward, or so it sounds, which means the extensive work he put in this winter was more about rediscovering previous mechanics than it was building something all over. I think we actually wrote about it as such at some point. Yeah, I’m sure we did. Either way, it’s clear Heyward is using his wrists once again and is no longer swinging as though he’s handcuffed. That has contributed to the higher exit velocity and launch angle we’re seeing this year.

I don’t want to assume too much, but I think hitting 400-foot homers is a trend Cubs fans would be happy to see Heyward maintain.

Cubs part of big debut

When Gift Ngoepe (sounds like n-GO-pay) entered Wednesday night’s game as part of a double-switch in the top of the 4th inning, he became the first African-born player in MLB history. The milestone got even cooler for him when he singled up the middle on a 3-1 count leading off the bottom of the inning.

More than just breaking through as the first player from his continent, the 27-year-old Petersburg, South Africa native finally got a cup of coffee after more than eight seasons in the Pirates organization. He isn’t really much with the stick (.232/.322/.347 MiLB career slash), but Ngoepe is a slick-fielding middle infielder who the Pirates hope can help them with their brutal defense (-9 DRS, 28th in MLB).

On a more personal note, it was special for me to have the opportunity to share this bit of history with my son, who had recently finished his first-ever kid-pitch Little League game (in reverse-split fashion, he singled batting lefty against a southpaw and struck out batting righty against the same pitcher). When I mentioned the significance of Ngoepe’s appearance in the game, Ryne said, “But I thought Jackie Robinson was the first.”

That led to more conversation that eventually bled into a review of his homework and further work on the pitching mechanics that had led him to walk too many batters (that’s his gripe, not mine, by the way). As trite and played a trope as it may be, there’s something about sharing the game we love with our kids. I’m thankful that Gift Ngoepe afforded me the opportunity to do that on a deeper level than just cheering a Rizzo home run.

More news and notes

  • Shelby Miller to receive third opinion from Dr. James Andrews
    • A second opinion means something’s bad, a third is worse
    • The second opinon came from renowned Dr. Neal ElAttrache
    • You don’t go to see Andrews without a big issue
    • “They see something in there,” said a tight-lipped Miller
    • This is my fault since I had just picked him up in my Ottoneu league
  • The Giants have purchased the contract of Michael Morse
  • The Mariners have placed Felix Hernandez on the 10-day DL
  • Jake Arrieta is busting RHH inside this year
  • The Cubs rotation is changing again as the bottom two spots flip
  • While perusing the new Cubs items at Fanatics, I came across this tavern sign; please buy me one for my birthday, which is coming in June
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