Edgardo Alfonzo: slow home run trot. Cocky.
Todd Zeile: enjoys Punky Brewster reruns. Must be beaned.
Stottlemyre does not like card games before his starts. He despises batting-cage fraternization with the opposing team. He is a robot. A machine. A....
�Se�or Stottlemyre! �Se�or Stottlemyre! �Un aut�grafo, por favor?
Twenty or so members of a Mexican all-star baseball team were crowding into the tiny clubhouse of the Rookie League Tucson Diamondbacks. Some held cameras; others, pens and scraps of paper. It was the morning of Aug. 4,1999. The occasion was Stottlemyre's first rehab start since a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder had been diagnosed 2� months earlier. A few hours before the game there was something of an ambush. One minute, Stottlemyre was frozen in his chair, burning holes through the wall with his blue eyes, finding reasons to hate players he'd never heard of. The next, Fiesta Blast '99 at Electric Park. "So here are these guys taking pictures, wrapping their arms around me...before the game," he recalls. "Normally, I'd be pissed as hell. I mean, I was pitching against them." Somehow, this was different. Stottlemyre's nervous energy vanished. "When I went to the bullpen, I thought I was going to get killed because I'd lost my edge," he says. "But I relaxed, and it turned out to be a great day for me." In four innings he allowed the Mexicans one run and three hits. "It was my biggest step."
Because he is Todd Stottlemyre and not, say, Pedro Martinez or David Cone, few people realize the significance of the shoulder surgery that never took place. But just wait until the end of this season, when-assuming Stottlemyre wins his standard 12 to 15 games—the Stott Program will go down with Tommy John surgery in baseball medical lore. Last May 20 Stottlemyre was told he had a 70% tear in his right rotator cuff, as well as a partially torn labrum (the cartilage around the joint). Over his 12-year, five-team major league career, he had been a model of consistency and dependability. From 1990 to '98 he had always started at least 25 games, never winning more than 15 or fewer than 11 (except in the strike-shortened '94 season, when he went 7-7). Upon signing a four-year, $32 million contract with the Diamondbacks after the '98 season, he had been considered the perfect addition to the second-year franchise: a feisty veteran with three above-average pitches (fastball, curveball, slider) who knew how to win. Then, eight starts into last season, Stottlemyre ran into trouble. On May 17 he woke up with a sore shoulder. It was cold and windy in San Francisco, however, and many a pitcher has felt a little stiff in the Bay Area's often hostile elements. That day, against the Giants, Stottlemyre felt O.K. for three innings. In the fourth his arm weakened. A fastball to Ellis Burks hit 82 mph on the radar. The next fastball hit 80. Stottlemyre walked out to start the fifth, but manager Buck Showalter persuaded him to sit back down. "Todd," notes Showalter, "hates to come out of a game."
After seeing results of an MRI and realizing that Stottlemyre's career could be over, David Zeman, the Diamondbacks' team doctor, called the pitcher into his office. As far as anyone knows, no pitcher has ever returned from a torn rotator cuff without surgery followed by a one-or two-year layoff. But Zeman knew of Stottlemyre's intensity. He also knew that, theoretically, one could strengthen tire body enough—maybe, in the best-case, one-in-a-million scenario—to pitch with the tear. But it would take unyielding dedication; insane weight work; ungodly attention to mechanics.
"Dr. Zeman wouldn't guarantee that if they operated, I would be able to come back and pitch the same way," Stottlemyre says. "He said if I made it back from surgery in a year and a half, that would be a great thing. I was thinking, Damn, that doesn't sound too good. He said there was one option. I could give it six weeks, work as hard as I could, get as strong as I could and see if my body rebounded. The way I looked at it was, What is six weeks?"
So Stottlemyre, Zeman and the Diamondbacks' trainers, Paul Lessard and Dave Edwards, came up with a plan based on eight exercises that would strengthen the muscles surrounding Stottlemyre's right rotator cuff. Most of the workouts were extremely basic—varieties of dumbbell curls and elastic pulls—yet extremely strenuous. Over the weeks the routines expanded from eight to 20 to, now, more than 50 exercises that make up the Stott Program. Six days a week, four to six hours a day, Stottlemyre was in the weight room, adding 17 pounds of muscle that bulked him up to 206. Three days a week he would focus on the upper body. Three days a week he would focus on the legs and torso. The goal went from simply enhancing muscles near the rotator cuff to strengthening every muscle in the body, turning it into a machine whose different parts all helped compensate for the tear.
Stottlemyre not only got stronger but also changed his approach to throwing. Instead of relying only on his arm, he began paying more attention to his legs, his trunk. In the old days he would naturally fall toward first after releasing the ball. That put extra strain on the rotator cuff. Now his motion sends him straight forward. "You can throw a baseball much more effectively, and efficiently, if everything's working together," he says. "I used to just get up and throw."