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Alfonseca's silence too costly for his team

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Alfonseca's silence too costly for his team

By Joe Capozzi


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Sunday, April 24, 2005


By his own admission, Marlins relief pitcher Antonio Alfonseca had been throwing with discomfort in his right elbow for three weeks before he took himself out of Thursday's game.


"We were down 10-1," he said. "Why take a chance?"


Athletes are competitive creatures. Playing with pain is part of the game. But a right-handed pitcher playing despite pain in his right elbow for three weeks is irresponsible.


Alfonseca need only look around the Marlins' clubhouse to see the dangers ? from A.J. Burnett to Brian Moehler, both of whom have rebounded after surgery to repair their blown-out elbow ligaments.


Alfonseca said Thursday night he didn't think his injury was serious, that he should be back after a few days' rest. On Friday he went on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his right elbow. His roster replacement was Travis Smith, another Tommy John surgery survivor.


The lesson is simple: You feel pain in your elbow, stop throwing.


Not Alfonseca.


What was he thinking?


Well, dollar signs might be one answer.


Back in December, the Marlins agreed to a two-year, $4.75 million contract with Alfonseca, a free agent coming off a solid season with the Atlanta Braves.


Then a routine physical detected a herniated disk in his back. The Marlins withdrew their offer. Alfonseca says the back was never an issue last year.


The Marlins, looking for insurance to back up unproven closer Guillermo Mota, decided to sign Alfonseca to a new deal ? one that protected the team from financial liability.


That deal pays Alfonseca the league-minimum $300,000, but it is loaded with performance incentives that would have paid him $2 million if he made 65 appearances.


Those kinds of deals are not unusual. Magglio Ordonez signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Detroit that allows the Tigers to void the contract if Ordonez's left knee causes him to spend at least 25 days on the disabled list or if he finishes the season on the disabled list.


(Ordonez is on the disabled list, but not because of a knee problem. He will be examined Monday in Philadelphia by a hernia specialist).


The Marlins can be praised for reworking the contract to provide financial protection. But those kinds of deals carry the risk of a player not being honest with team if he is in pain because of the lure of more money.


Thursday was Alfonseca's sixth appearance in 15 games, a pace that would have propelled him toward a lucrative bonus.


But his velocity was down. And his posture on the mound seemed more rigid.


"He had that back problem so you don't know whether that affects you putting more pressure on your arm. I don't know," manager Jack McKeon said.


On Saturday, McKeon said the Marlins reminded their pitchers: "If you've got an ache or a pain, let us know. If you need a day, we'll give you a day."


As for Alfonseca, who will miss at least two months, McKeon said: "I wish he would have said something, that it was bothering him."


If you were looking at up to $2 million, would you?




It is fortunate the team based the incentive on appearances and not on time missed due to his herniated disk. Depending upon when he comes back the team may only be obligated for the $316K league minimum.

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I looked around a bit and found that Alfonseca has a $2.7M vesting option for 2006 that kicks in after 65 appearances. He could earn up to $2M this year based upon # appearances that started kicking in at 10 appearances. So far he has appeared in 6 games, so the team is only obligated for the league minimum $316K.

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This situation is always a Catch-22. If you can't pitch your of no value to the team, if you pitch in pain and don't do well your of no value to the team, and finally if you say something your looked at like a bellyacher. (E.G.) Spooney and Fox in the last two seasons. Just about every pitcher has some pain or discomfort when they pitch, it is for each pitcher to decide whether they can answer the bell. I just hope he returns soon.

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The reason he probably remained silent was not because of competitive fire or anything like that which the article may imply, it's probably because he wanted to get to those 10 appearances so his option would start to kick in.


Again, just speculation, so don't try and tear me a new one :thumbup .

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