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Did Lopez risk a “Canseco” by pitching injured?

St. Louis Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez took the mound with a sore elbow, not disclosing pre-existing discomfort until afterward. Was he tough or careless?

Felipe Lopez pitching, April 17, 2010St. Louis Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez was considered a hero at the time Saturday night when he took the mound to pitch a scoreless 18th inning in the eventual 20-inning loss to the New York Mets.

Unfortunately, there is an unpleasant sidebar to this story as the veteran has been out of action since Monday due to elbow discomfort. That same pain is what caused Lopez to opt out of pitching a second frame on Saturday night.

What makes matters worse is that Lopez first hurt his right, throwing elbow the week prior in Milwaukee but did not disclose his injury to trainers. Had team officials known that, not only would the player have received more prompt treatment, he most likely would not have been allowed to risk further damage by pitching last weekend.

While manager Tony La Russa has been second, third and fourth-guessed over his managerial decisions in that game, he made it clear he had no prior knowledge of Lopez’ elbow soreness.

The severity of the injury is being downplayed, with Lopez potentially being available for this weekend’s series in San Francisco. What if that is not the case, however?

Rob Rains of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat penned an interesting piece about the Cardinals history of using non-pitchers on the mound. It is well worth the read but it does not acknowledge injuries incurred when players not conditioned to pitch end up doing just that.

Jose Canseco, May 30, 1993 (Getty Images)While the Cardinals may have avoided high-profile cases of position player mound injuries to date, the story of Jose Canseco may best illustrate the ugly underbelly of this kind of maneuver.

While with Texas on May 30, 1993, Canseco took to the mound in mop-up duty for the Rangers. He injured his right elbow on his second pitch, but continued to throw a total of 33 that day. A torn ligament meant reconstructive surgery and a ruined season for the “Juiced” slugger.

As often happens in sport, we see in the Lopez case a blurring of the line between “manning up” and being smart. The potential detriment to both the player and team of anything less than full disclosure of injuries is considerable.

Here is hoping this is the last we hear of problems with Lopez’ elbow.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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