CINCINNATI — You could make an argument that nothing affected the Reds' recent history more than the oblique.
For you non-anatomy experts, here’s how medhealthdaily.com defines the oblique: “The oblique muscles are located in the core of your abdomen. There are two groups of oblique muscles: internal and external. These muscles are in the main base of your trunk along the sides of the abdomen. They are used to twist, bend, and they also help you breathe in some cases.”
In other words, throwing a baseball and swinging a bat involve the oblique to a great degree.
When Johnny Cueto strained his oblique in the first game of the 2012 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, it drastically changed the Reds' pitching plans in an instant. They would go on to lose the series. The series changed the trajectory of the franchise.
“I’m not saying the Giants wouldn’t have won the World Series,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “But it would have been nice to have Cueto in Game 1 and Game 3.”
Price has been dealing with the oblique ever since — or at least it seems that way. This year has been especially difficult.
Anthony DeSclafani, the projected No. 1 starter, still hasn’t pitched after straining his left oblique in spring training. Right-hander Tim Adleman joined DeSclafani on the disabled list Friday after straining his left oblique in Thursday’s start. Jon Moscot missed two weeks with a strained intercostal, which is related to the oblique.
Price hadn’t even heard of the oblique until he was well along in his baseball career.
“It’s been the last decade, 15 years where you became aware of the oblique injury,” he said. “Dan Wilson when I with Seattle — I think it might have been ’04, ’05 — had an oblique injury in spring training. I don’t know that was first one heard of . . . ”
Stan Conte, former Los Angeles Dodgers trainer, had an explanation of why oblique injuries seem new.
“Until the late 1990s, they were called rib cage injuries or abdominal injuries or lower chest injuries,” he told the New York Times in 2012. “As MRI technology got better, the diagnosis became more particular, and we began to see them called oblique injuries.”
Adleman hurt his on one pitch. The Reds, with all the injuries this year, are looking at reasons why and prevention.
“If we identified it, we would fix it,” Price said. “Right now, for me, we’re just throwing stuff up against the wall to see if something sticks. I don’t assume anything. If it’s different training stuff, if guys have less body fat because they’re training year-round, that would seem to be a simple answer, but it probably has no truth to it.”
It’s an injury players fear.
“When you hear oblique, you kind of cringe a little bit because those can be kind of nagging,” Adleman said. “You never know if you try to get back in too soon, are you going to aggravate it more? I’ve heard it’s hard to tell if it’s 100 percent. You think you’re good to go, and then you go out and do something you don’t want to.”
DeSclafani had a setback well into his rehab. He threw a live batting practice session Friday. The next step is a rehab three-start assignment. The injury likely will cost him two months of his season.
“It’s frustrating,” he said.
Adleman asked DeSclafani how to proceed with the injury.
“His advice was listen to your body,” Adleman said. “Even if you think you should be back at a certain day or the doctor says you should be back at a certain day, if you’re not sure you’re 100 percent, keep treating it and get it where it needs to be.”