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The Sports Daily > Firebrand AL
Jon Papelbon – Wind Up Being Tweaked?

Jonathan Papelbon, who has been coming out the victor a lot in poker during spring training, on March first, headed to Birmingham, Alabama to throw for Dr. James Andrews, a renowed sports physician who does many evaluations and surgeries of baseball players.
Jon did some Biomechanical Evaluation, which is apparently very expensive. According to Dale Baker at the American Sports Medicine Institute, “a number of major league organizations routinely send their pitching staffs to Birmingham for a biomechanical evaluation with the goal of injury prevention. This evaluation gives the pitching coaches specific data to work with on individual pitchers.”
Ms. Papelbon, Jon’s mother, said that “this will tell him from his delivery how long he can last pitching, and if he needs to change his delivery they will so he won’t hurt whatever later on. I think since he hasn’t pitched long they feel it wouldn’t be hard to change something if they needed to.”
I have heard of this evaluation before, but I never knew Dr. Andrews was involved in this. Back in my glory pitching days for high school, one day I visited a coach at Amherst College, Bill Thurston.

Coach Bill Thurston has been head baseball coach at Amherst College for 38 years and has won nearly 65% of all games played. Since 1990, he has served as pitching consultant for the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI). Thurston, the NCAA Baseball Rules Editor for 14 years, is a nationally known clinic speaker, any many of his instructional materials have been published and video taped. Four times he has been selected New England Coach of the Year, and he was inducted in the ABCA National Coaches Hall of Fame in 1997.

While I did not get the amount of technology available to Jon Papelbon, Mr. Thurston was kind enough to show me a video of Mark Langston undergoing this exact evaluation that Jon Papelbon underwent. The video was kind of dark, but there were things attached at various points on Mark’s body that were used to monitor the delivery. ASMI states that their evaluation consists of the following:

1. The pitcher signs a consent form and fills out some demographic information about themselves and their health history.
2. The pitcher goes through their pre-game routine (stretching, etc.)
3. We put reflective markers onto the joints of the pitcher’s body as reference points for our six infrared cameras.
4. The pitcher loosens up.
5. The biomechanical evaluation will be administered using the reflective markers, infrared cameras, and motion analysis software.
6. Your evaluation movements will be run through a computer program developed at ASMI. The computer program will determine the exact kinematics of your delivery.
7. Your kinematics will be compared to the kinematics of our database of elite pitchers.
8. You will receive a packet including your written evaluation with our comments concerning the efficiency of your pitching delivery.
You will also be videotaped during the evaluation with our Kodak high-speed video cameras. Each of these cameras records your motion at 500 frames per second (standard video is 30 frames per second). The video will be copied to a VHS or a CD-R and mailed to you along with your evaluation.
You will also be videotaped using a regular camcorder so your motion can be seen at real speed. From this video, we will capture still photos at various instances during your delivery. This video and these photos will also be sent to you along with your evaluation.

It is nice to see the Red Sox utilizing as much technology as is available to them and if they do find something that worries them, they can tweak the windup to reflect upon that. As I mused to A’s fanatic Dave Isaacs (who participated in the Red Sox Roundtable) about this tidbit of news, Dave related that Rick Peterson, former A’s pitching coach and current Mets coach, had also utilized this technology.
Dave said this was a reason Scott Kazmir was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Kazmir was found at risk for arm problems because of this biomechanical evaluation. Maybe the Devil Rays will fix it, maybe not. But the Mets sold Kazmir when he had his highest value (at the time). Did they get too little back? Sure, but they took knowledge of Kazmir and used to their advantage in the trade.
POSTSCRIPT
Another person at ASMI answered my question in addition to Mr. Baker. Much thanks for ASMI for being so accomodating!

Here at the American Sports Medicine Institute, our mission to improve the understanding, prevention, and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education. One of our most successful programs is our biomechanical research and evaluation of baseball pitching biomechanics. Pitchers of all levels are evaluated to help them and their coaches find efficient mechanics, mimimizing risk of injury and maximing performance. If you’d like to learn more about these biomechanical evaluations and the research here at ASMI, explore our website: http://www.asmi.org. Again, the evaluations are available for players from Little League to the Major Leagues.

– Glenn S. Fleisig, Ph.D., Smith & Nephew Chair of Research
A QUICK EGOMANICAL NOTE
I had no advance notice about this, but I saw the paper today, namely Bill Doyle’s column, and I was mentioned.

Once the regular season begins, NESN will once again air one-hour pregame shows and one-hour postgame shows with Tom Caron back as host.
In response to a request from Evan Brunell, a deaf Northeastern University student from Sturbridge, NESN plans to close-caption Red Sox studio shows, as well as all Sox games, this season. When NESN airs its Red Sox 2004 DVD,