JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Jordan Walden, whose health has been under close scrutiny the past 10 days, appeared Wednesday to have cleared his final hurdle.
After throwing well in Monday’s game, the final test was whether he could bounce back and pitch effectively on a short turnaround.
He took the mound, threw 12 pitches and got three quick outs. All looked to be well until he came off the field.
“As I’m watching him I’m like, ‘man this looks good.’ But (he said) something didn’t feel right,” Mike Matheny said after the game.
During the inning, Walden felt discomfort in his shoulder after throwing a slider to Marcell Ozuna, the second hitter of the inning.
“It’s never happened before. It’s kind of weird,” Walden said.
The righty’s shoulder issues have always come in the days following an appearance, never during it. He informed Matheny when he returned to the dugout, and will now have to see a doctor to find out what’s causing the problem.
“I know I can pitch through discomfort, but it comes to the point where you can’t pitch through pain,” Walden explained. “My shoulder isn’t where it needs to be and I guess I’m going to need some more time.”
It’s a cruel ending to what had been a tremendous recovery for the 28-year-old. After rotator cuff damage shut him down for the 2015 season, he opted to undergo a rigorous rehab and strengthening program instead of surgery.
Neither option is particularly attractive for pitchers.
Rotator cuff surgery does not have the recovery track record of Tommy John and many pitchers never make it back to their pre-tear effectiveness. The strength program can keep a pitcher on the mound and off the operating table, but it is not a permanent fix and it’s effectiveness can be eroded by fatigue and other injury.
Walden’s hard work appeared to pay dividends this spring, as he pitched eight scoreless innings, gave up five hits and struck out eight. His fastball was heavy and low in the zone and his slider was sharp all spring. By taking the mound Wednesday, it appeared he secured his place on the opening day roster.
“I know it’s frustrating for him,” Matheny said. “He worked so hard to where he is right now and he’s right on the brink.”
Perhaps that’s why Walden is unwilling to consider the worst. Speaking at his locker he remained confident that this was only a setback; a momentary lapse in strength.
“I think I’m going to be fine, I’m not worried at all. I just need to build up a couple things and I’ll be back,” he said.
He did acknowledge days like Wednesday may be his new reality; that a career without discomfort and worry may be a luxury of the past.
“I think this is how it’s going to be. I’ve pitched a long time, not even in the majors, I’ve been pitching a long time as a kid,” he said. “I just wasn’t ready for the season.”
Walden reaffirmed the issue was not the same as the one that clipped short his 2015 season. He would only say the problem was in his shoulder, opting not to get any more specific than that.
“Nothing what it was last year. The rotator is good,” he said.
While the pitcher does not want to draw lines connecting his rotator cuff to the current problems, the organization believes it's all related.
Walden will see doctors in Dallas in the coming days and his place on the 25-man roster is now open. GM John Mozeliak said the injury leads to an opening for Matt Bowman, a Rule 5 draft pick the Cardinals secured from the Mets. Bowman has never pitched in the majors but has thrown eight innings for the Cardinals in spring training. He has allowed 14 hits and seven earned runs, but has been the victim of sub-par defense in some of his appearances.