Nagging oblique injury puts Hoffman on the disabled list
He is scheduled to come back April 11 against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.
Hoffman, the game’s all-time career saves leader and probable future Hall of Famer who signed a one-year, $6 million deal in the off-season, will remain with the team and under the watch of head trainer Roger Caplinger until he leaves for rehabilitation assignments that could start April 9.
“It’s frustrating knowing where we’re at, a week away from starting things up,” Hoffman said. “But looking at not having been off the mound in two weeks, it’s pretty silly to rush it at (this) point.”
Part of Hoffman’s frustration is that it’s difficult to deal in exactitudes with an oblique because the discomfort comes and goes and can be difficult to pinpoint. Also, there is no surgery or rehab that can heal the injury similar to the right shoulder surgery he underwent in 2003.
“That was different because that was a specific trauma,” Hoffman said. “They fix it then the ball is put in your court.
”There’s not many studies on oblique strains. There’s no blueprint for it.“
Hoffman originally felt tightness in the oblique after his outing against the Royals on March 13. He drove to the ballpark the next morning and felt stiffness. He has not pitched in a game since then and played catch on flat ground Sunday for the first time since March 20 and felt no oblique soreness Monday.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash—who met with Hoffman and general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ken Macha on Monday morning—said the move was made now to ease any pressure Hoffman might have about getting back on the mound by opening day.
”He’s feeling much better, much improved,“ Ash said. ”He’ll progress as he can. We just didn’t want him to feel like he was in the hurry-up mode to make opening day.“
Hoffman knew a trip to the DL was inevitable since his progress had been slowed lately. The recovery has hit plateaus followed by small steps upward but obviously not rapid enough to get him ready for the season.
”I think the main thing is to make sure when we get him back off that he’s ready to go for an extended period of time,“ Macha said, ‘’and not try to rush and hurry and have something happen after he comes off and lose him for an extended period of time.“
The 16-year veteran knows the risks.
Hoffman cited several factors like age—he is 41—time of the year an injury happens and how quickly it is diagnosed as playing roles in the recovery process. With the season not won in spring training or the first two weeks of the season, there was no need to push too hard.
”You don’t want to rush it and set things back,“ Hoffman said. ‘’Just because we’re starting to see some progress, you don’t want to jump on it to the point you set yourself back two weeks and lose the two weeks you’ve progressed with.
“Two weeks in the regular season are going to seem like a hell of a lot longer than the last two weeks of spring training. It will be difficult to watch games go by.”
There has also been concern, not only in Brewers camp, but throughout baseball about the plague of side and oblique injuries in camps. Ash said earlier this spring he even asked around to see if the Brewers were or weren’t doing something to cause or prevent the injuries.
Hoffman defended the Brewers’ training and conditioning staff, which he said has been asked about its programs in meetings as it relates to players in camp coming up with the side issues. Besides Hoffman, Ryan Braun (intercostal), Braden Looper (oblique) and Mike Cameron (intercostal) have missed games this spring.
But Hoffman said Caplinger and strength and conditioning specialist Chris Joyner shouldn’t be blamed.
“I know they’re getting a lot of heat for it as a staff,” Hoffman said. “That’s part of the frustration (for me). I know how hard Roger has been working with me. I know that C.J. has been diligent with the regimen we put forth as far as the conditioning aspect.
”People want to point the finger as far as what we have or have not done. It seems like it’s cyclical where you go through certain springs (where an injury is common). It seems to be an oblique this year.“
With Hoffman opening the season on the DL, that means the pitching staff is now set, barring another injury or player move from outside the organization.
Since Lindsay Gulin and Wes Littleton were reassigned to minor league camp Monday, that leaves Carlos Villanueva, the likeliest man to close games in Hoffman’s absence, Seth McClung, Mitch Stetter, Todd Coffey, David Riske, Jorge Julio and Mark DiFelice in the bullpen until one is bumped upon Hoffman’s return.