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Updated: September 8th, 2011 2:23am
Mackey: As injuries mount, Twins' front office not just standing by

Mackey: As injuries mount, Twins' front office not just standing by

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- This probably comes as no shock, but no team has used the disabled list more often this season than the Minnesota Twins.

In fact, it's gotten to the point where head athletic trainer Rick McWane's injury report reads like a cryptic novel when he addresses reporters prior to each game.

Heading into Thursday, the Twins were tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates for most total disabled list stints this season with 24. That includes 16 different players landing on the shelf, tying the Twins for fifth-most behind the Pirates (20), Yankees (19), Giants (18) and Red Sox (17).

Hat tip to SI.com and Dan Wade for the above data.

Danny Valencia and Michael Cuddyer are the only offensive regulars -- not counting late-joiner Ben Revere -- who haven't spent time on the disabled list.

Total days sidelined due to injury this season:

Kevin Slowey (94) -- shoulder, abdomen
Justin Morneau (83) -- neck, wrist, illness, foot, concussion symptoms
Denard Span (80) -- concussion, migraines, whiplash
Tsuyoshi Nishioka (78) -- leg, oblique
Joe Mauer (74) -- legs, neck, illness
Jason Kubel (52) -- foot
Jim Thome (50) -- oblique, quad, back, thigh
Scott Baker (45) -- elbow
Jason Repko (41) -- thigh, shoulder
Alexi Casilla (39) -- hamstring
Delmon Young (39) -- oblique, ankle
Francisco Liriano (34) -- shoulder
Joe Nathan (31) -- forearm/elbow
Glen Perkins (29) -- oblique, forearm
Jose Mijares (18) -- elbow, illness
Nick Blackburn (16) -- forearm
Michael Cuddyer (13) -- neck, wrist
Brian Duensing (4) -- oblique
Matt Capps (4) -- forearm
Matt Tolbert (2) -- wrist

Injury data courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. Days missed based on days where the player was on the disabled list or considered unavailable to play.

Maybe it's best to quarantine newcomers Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson before they wind up in slings.

"We all have work to do, we all have to work together to try and fix some of the problems," general manager Bill Smith said Tuesday. "We've got to work with the players, we've got to work with the coaches. (Manager Ron Gardenhire) has addressed one little piece, that we'd like to have those three extra days at the start of spring training."

Extra spring training is much-needed, although probably more for fixing fundamental mistakes.

Question is, can this season's injury barrage be chalked up to horrible luck?

Or do changes need to be made?

"You've got to find balance between blowing everything up and not panicking," Smith said, referring not just to the team's injury plague but to other facets gone wrong this season as well.

"The best thing we can do is we will address every area coming into the offseason. We're going to sit down -- sit down with the manager, sit down with the coaches, sit down with the trainers, sit down with the doctors, sit down with our front office staff. ... We'll go over every area, and we'll try and determine if we need to make any changes or not."

But here's a nugget most folks may not realize -- or believe -- after watching the walking wounded this season:

The Twins already began bolstering the training staff at the beginning of last season when they moved into Target Field.

The team added a part-time, deep-tissue massage therapist who arrives several hours before each home night game, and also a third trainer who doesn't travel, but who instead stays behind at Target Field with injured players to do more one-on-one work.

And prior to the start of this season, according to two MLB sources, a few veteran Twins players separately approached Smith to express their desire for the team to add a chiropractor, and to upgrade the massage therapist to full-time.

The team obliged, at least in part, by adding a chiropractor who comes in twice per week during homestands.

By comparison, eight major league teams employ full-time, traveling massage therapists, and a handful of others employ either a full-time physical therapist or a full-time chiropractor. That doesn't account for trainers around the league who may specialize, or have backgrounds, in massage or chiropractic therapy.

Every major league team, including the Twins, has at least one head trainer, one or two assistant trainers and a strength and conditioning coach.

"There are some areas that we're up at the front, there's some areas we're at the back, studying," Smith said. "Chiropractic, massage therapy, we've kind of come on in the last two years.

"Video, we used to have one of the worst physical set-ups, and a lot of that was Metrodome-driven. We didn't have any facilities. And now we're proud that we have one of the best video set-ups."

As for the bad-luck factor, Twins players have suffered a great deal of impact injuries -- Nishioka's broken leg, Young crashing into the wall in Milwaukee, Morneau and Span suffering concussions, etc.

The question is whether anything can be done going forward to prevent setbacks and prolonged absences -- Mauer missing two months with leg weakness, Casilla suffering multiple setbacks with his hamstring, Kubel re-aggravating his foot early in a rehab assignment.

Or pitchers feeling shoulder, elbow or forearm discomfort.

Preventable? Or par for the course?

It's a cloudy, gray area, and players themselves might also have to look in the mirror at times.

"You can't blame the training staff because Nishioka got taken out on the play at second base," Smith said. "Michael Cuddyer getting hit in the wrist, concussions, those have nothing to do with the training staff. Every team goes through injuries.

"And I don't want to paint the picture that everything's rosy, everything's going just fine, because we're not having a good year. But it's hard to throw everybody under the bus when it's the same staff -- the same training staff that we've had since '06. The same coaching staff. And those people didn't lose all their skills overnight. ...

"We've had all of our share, and hopefully this is the 100-year flood of injuries and we can get back to normal next year."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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