Fans of the Detroit Tigers took a knee to the gut from Alfredo Simon last night. The right knee, not the left that he revealed has been injured all season.
Simon finished his season on a high note, at least it seemed that way. He pitched a complete game against the Chicago White Sox, only giving up two runs on five hits but was outdueled by Chris Sale in a 2-1 loss. After the game he admitted that he played former general manager Dave Dombrowski and the team’s scouting and medical staffs for fools.
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"“I’ve been pitching hurt all year. My knee is not 100 percent. I don’t want to go on the DL because I want to throw 32 games, so when I go to free agency I won’t hurt my career.”"
The issue isn’t just that Simon has been pitching hurt all season, it’s that he knew his knee was injured before he was traded to the Tigers from Cincinnati. With his season finished Simon will be getting a platelet rich plasma injection in his left knee this weekend, the same injection he received last December while still a member of the Reds.
"“When I got traded, I had no chance to make it strong. That’s why in spring training you see me with ice all the time. It’s because I was hurt, not 100 percent.”"
Wasn’t Simon given a physical before the trade was completed? Even if he tried to keep a PRP injection quiet last December wouldn’t that have been a part of his medical records? It appears that Dombrowski finalized the trade for Simon without either he, or the Tigers’ medical staff doing their due diligence.
There’s also the question about the medical staff’s gullibility when Simon claimed that icing his knee after games was part of his regular routine. Granted it’s his landing knee and it bore a lot of weight every time “Big Pasta” delivered a pitch but there’s never anything routine when any player, pitcher or not, ices a knee after a game.
When Simon’s knee was at its worst when his fastball velocity couldn’t break 90-mph on the radar gun and his pitches stayed invitingly up in the strike zone.
It’s a wonder that manager Brad Ausmus never suspected there might be something physically wrong with his big right-hander. Ausmus spent most of his 18-year playing career as a catcher, someone who’s better dialed in to the effectiveness and habits of pitchers than anyone else on the field. Watching Simon struggle should have been setting off alarm bells in his head that something wasn’t right.
It’s obvious by Ausmus’ comments after the game, before Simon made his revelation, that he had no clue about his pitcher’s physical limitations. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride. He’s been real good and he’s been real bad. Tonight he was real good.” That is baseball insight that will the Tigers are welcoming back to the dugout in 2016.
That Simon gave no thought at any point of the season, no matter how hard he was getting hit, to spending time on the disabled list to rehab and strengthen his knee is a second insult that Tigers fans have had to endure from their pitching staff over the past two weeks.
Simon started the season strong but when his team needed someone to step up and join David Price at the top of the rotation while the Royals, or a Wild Card spot, was still in reach he let the team and fans down because he knew he wasn’t physically capable of performing to the expected level.
If he were gutting out the pain because he wanted to try and do whatever he could for the team then his behavior could be understood. It wouldn’t make pitching hurt right but it would make the struggle palatable to teammates and fans. That Simon freely admits he continued to pitch to make himself a better free agent target is as reprehensible as it was for Bruce Rondon to fail to give his best effort when called to the mound.
The injury admission also demonstrates that Simon is either a fool, or is getting terrible advice from his agent, or a little of both. He’s going to be at the bottom of the barrel when starting pitchers begin to sign in free agency. It’s a guarantee Simon won’t be pulling in anywhere near the $5.5 million the Tigers wasted on him, if anyone decides to take a chance on him at all as a starter.
Simon’s final comments dealt with his feelings about returning to the Tigers next season, “I would like to stay here. I will be hoping I can come back here. It’s a good group of guys. I hope they talk to me before I sign somewhere else.”
The Tigers should talk to him before he signs with someone else. They should say, you let us, your teammates and the fans down this year, good-bye and good riddance.