According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson , Washington Nationals catcher Jesus Flores has been "shut down" from baseball related drills until February, presumably when pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
Flores is recovering from labrum and elbow surgeries following a 2009 season that saw him get just 106 plate appearances before being shut down with what was originally diagnosed as a fracture in his shoulder, then a torn labrum after he attempted a painful comeback in Triple-A.
Whether or not Flores has already been performing baseball related activities (i.e.,hitting and throwing) is undetermined in the article, but Flores' quotes in the piece seem to indicate that he is building up strength but the team is being cautious in his return.
"I'm doing great," Flores said. "After surgery, I'm feeling much better. My strength is coming along. I'm moving my arm lot better. I'm going to be ready for the season. I'm completely shutdown [for Winter Ball]. I guess I will start to throw a baseball in February."
This news seems to be at least incongruous to the report we got from GM Mike Rizzo last week at the Ivan Rodriguez press conference that Flores should be ready for spring training.
“I can only go by what the medical people tell me," Rizzo said. "They say he should be 100 percent and ready to participate in spring training. Now, we take them at their word, but we all know that specifically shoulders are very difficult to predict."
News from the player himself that "I guess I will start to throw...in February," is somewhat disconcerting.
I'm not a doctor, but I know a little about rehabbing a throwing shoulder, and it certainly seems that if he's not even going to start throwing until February, that will not leave him, according to Rizzo on Friday, "100 percent" ready to participate in spring training.
It could take him months to get into throwing shape if he doesn't start until February. It's not like he's a pitcher, with all the stress of throwing off a mound, but he had labrum and elbow surgery since we last saw him.
When questioned about the major league depth at catcher at the Rodriguez press conference, Rizzo responded, “We have three capable catchers on the major league level. We have (Jaime) Burke on the Triple-A level and we have (Derek) Norris—who is an up-and-coming and potential significant contributor for us in the future."
Perhaps the part of that quote that got glossed over at that point was "three capable catchers ." We can only assume now that Rizzo meant Rodriguez, Flores, and Nieves, with Burke re-signed for Triple-A Syracuse.
So maybe we shouldn't have been surprised that Nieves was offered arbitration after all. Rizzo apparently told us as much on Friday.
I'm sure this revelation in Ladson's story will get some glossing over, organizationally speaking, in the next day or so. "Shutting down" until February will turn into "part of the doctor's plans all along" and that they expect Flores to be ready, etc.
But expecting in the media and planning for the worst-case scenario are often two different things. And right now, it looks like the Nats are stocking up at catcher.
Hopefully it's just out of an abundance of caution, but it seems, from today's news, that the caution is at least warranted.