440 appearances take toll on veteran reliever
George Sherrill reaches for his left elbow and points to the fleshy part just to the right of the joint.
“That’s where it’s at,” he says of the nagging ache and stiffness that won’t go completely away. “I guess that’s what happens when you get up to throw 150 times in less than a full season.”
That’s what Sherrill, a month shy of his 35th birthday, figures the Atlanta Braves had him do last season in making 51 appearances by late August and warming him up twice as often in the bullpen without actually using him in games. Factor in Sherrill’s age and his 440 career outings and it’s small wonder his elbow is talking back despite a late start to professional baseball coming out of the independent leagues in 2003.
Sherrill is learning to manage the pain that just might be there the remainder of his playing days. And it won’t happen by partaking in the same number of bullpen sessions or Cactus League games as the pitchers alongside him in Mariners camp.
Seattle signed Sherrill for $1.1 million in December knowing that patience might be a virtue this spring in Peoria, Ariz.
And with veteran left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo facing his own challenges in camp, the M’s are showing ample patience with Sherrill, knowing he might be the best left-side hope their bullpen has.
“When you have a veteran guy like him, he knows his body and what it will take to get ready,” M’s manager Eric Wedge said. “You want to have him ready for the season and be able to keep him going all season. That means you might have to back off a little down here.”
Making a few more bus rides or facing an extra dozen Class Triple-A and Double-A hitters this spring won’t determine whether Sherrill can get batters out when it counts this season.
Instead, Sherrill’s biggest measure of success might be in how well the infrared laser beam penetrating his elbow each morning gets the swelling to subside.
Seattle right-hander Blake Beavan allowed two hits over four innings as the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-4 Wednesday at Tempe, Ariz.
Beavan, a former first-round pick by Texas who was acquired in the Cliff Lee deal, is a favorite to make the back end of the M’s rotation. He went 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA for Seattle in 2011.