Chen’s no mar­gin for er­ror

Lefty’s par­tially torn UCL looms as he tries for re­bound

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - SPORTS - By Tim Healey Staff writer

SEATTLE — When Wei-Yin Chen fin­ished his seven hit­less in­nings against the Seattle Mariners on Tues­day, he did the same thing he does af­ter ev­ery start: iced down and re­ceived ex­tra treat­ment to help man­age the par­tially torn ul­nar col­lat­eral lig­a­ment in his left el­bow.

Chen and the Mi­ami Mar­lins found out about the UCL dam­age last sum­mer, when Chen spent about two months on the dis­abled list, but he said it has not in­ter­fered with his 2017 sea­son. He has spo­ken since the start of spring train­ing about how strong and healthy he feels, and he has been sharp in two out of his three starts this month.

Chen knows, how­ever, that this is some­thing he will have to deal with in­def­i­nitely. Par­tial UCL-tears don’t just go away. But he also said he doesn’t give it too much thought.

“With the tear in the lig­a­ment, it doesn’t re­ally heal,” Chen said through trans­la­tor Louis Chao. “It’s still there. It won’t heal. So I don’t re­ally think about if it’ll get worse or not. I just think about

with this, what treat­ment I should be get­ting.”

For now, that in­cludes more mas­sag­ing from the Mar­lins’ train­ers and an ex­tra de­gree of fo­cus on his me­chan­ics — which, if they get out of whack, could lead to more dam­age.

The Mar­lins weren’t wrong in call­ing Chen’s in­jury a left el­bow sprain when they put him on the dis­abled list last sum­mer. They just weren’t spe­cific. A sprain is a stretch­ing or tear­ing of a lig­a­ment. It just so hap­pens that Chen had tear­ing, not stretch­ing, and the lig­a­ment was the most fa­mous one in base­ball. Com­plete tears of the UCL re­quire re­con­struc­tive surgery, com­monly known as Tommy John surgery.

Chen re­ceived a platelet­rich plasma in­jec­tion, which uses a per­son’s own blood to help pro­mote healing of the lig­a­ment. He said Tommy John surgery — which side­lines pitch­ers for roughly a year — was never a se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion since the tear was not sig­nif­i­cant. In­stead, he re­cov­ered in time to make three starts at sea­son’s end.

“PRP was the quick­est way for me to re­cover and come back,” said Chen, who has had his left UCL re­paired once al­ready, via Tommy John surgery in 2006 when he was pitch­ing in Ja­pan.

The rest-and-re­hab path — aided by PRP treat­ment— that Chen chose is not un­com­mon for pitch­ers with par­tial UCL tears. The New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka has avoided surgery since re­hab­bing his par­tial tear in 2014, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wain­wright pitched with his for more than a half-decade be­fore hav­ing surgery in 2011.

Man­ager Don Mat­tingly first men­tioned Chen’s tear Tues­day night af­ter he took Chen out of the game, no­hit­ter in­tact, af­ter seven in­nings and100 pitches.

“This guy had a UCL tear last year,” Mat­tingly said. “He’s com­ing back. He’s been healthy, but I’m not go­ing to let him go to 130 [pitches].”

The two months of in­ac­tion were the low point of Chen’s 2016, the first sea­son of his five-year, $80 mil­lion deal with the Mar­lins. He posted a 4.96 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in a ca­reer-low 22 starts.

This sea­son, Chen is the high­est-paid player on the team with a salary of $15.5 mil­lion, and he is due $52 mil­lion from2018-20.

With the gaudy salary have come signs of prom­ise in the early parts of what Chen and the Mar­lins hope is a re­bound sea­son. Sand­wich­ing one ugly out­ing — six runs in three in­nings against the Mets — have been two very good ones, in­clud­ing Tues­day’s against the Mariners.

It was, by sev­eral mea­sures, Chen’s best in a Mi­ami uni­form.

“Of course, be­cause last year there wasn’t any game in which I didn’t al­low any runs,” Chen said. “[On Tues­day] I felt pretty good with my command of all my pitches, so I think def­i­nitely, this ismy great­est game as a Mar­lin.”

Hechavar­ria back

Mar­lins short­stop Adeiny Hechavar­ria has been ac­ti­vated from the dis­abled list af­ter miss­ing a week and a half with a strained left oblique. To make room on the 25-man ros­ter, the club op­tioned short­stop J.T. Rid­dle to Triple-A New Or­leans.

This po­si­tions the Mar­lins to field their full­strength lineup for the first time this sea­son Fri­day against the San Diego Padres.

TED S. WAR­REN/AP

Mar­lins start­ing pitcherWei-Yin Chen has two strong starts sand­wiched around a poor one so far in 2017. He is pitch­ing with a par­tially torn UCL.

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