Athletes who make a living at making it on to, and staying on a roster, can be pretty creative about nursing ailments and such. "I've got a handle on it coach," is the normal way of things if and when something is spotted. The competition is so fierce for each roster spot that sometimes a sprain, a sore back from a strange bed during away games, a simple cut or bruise that gets away from a man, and things like that are not to be ignored, especially with planning for the production of a man when it really counts, with little or no room for misfires.
I never messed with a staff, nor did I nursemaid. These people were mature individuals that were expected to keep their end of the bargain all season(s) long. After all, the only reason, I repeat, the only reason for being where they were was because they beat someone else out for the job - period.
But like I mentioned earlier, some of these people can be creative with smoothing things over when it comes to simple sprains and other ailments. I'll even go as far as including serious injuries brought from the off-season.
When I noticed something that just didn't settle right with me I would never approach a man directly and ask.. "what's the matter?" Instead, I'd present simple everyday things, not out of the ordinary for the man to do. I would also familiar myself with his "normal" physical conduct as a matter of routine at every opportunity. Why? It's my business to do so.
For back and neck issues:
- Ask the man to join me in an office, at lunch or dinner and then ask if he can read what that calendar or image behind him says. Stiffness or awkward movements prompts a bit more conversation.
- Yawning repeatedly means the man didn't get a good night sleep. Rubbing the face, rotating the neck and rounding the shoulders while bending over are another giveaway. Sometimes a poor mattress in a motel on a road trip can cause this. I'll watch the way a man collects his stuff and "shoves" it into a pen when he arrives for a game. Tired players are quick not to care about details.
For arm issues:
- Instead of folding their arms like everyone else, a player with an arm sprain will nurse it by holding it at the elbow. Another thing is they shift normal use of that arm to the other arm. For example, if asked to carry a bucket of balls, or even push an old shopping cart filled with baseballs, they'll invariably carry the bucket in the other hand/arm and push the shopping cart by leaning on it.
- I'll deliberately stand by a door and watch the player open it. Most people will use their main hand/arm. Going with the other hand/arm can sometimes indicate issues - sometimes.
For leg and knee issues:
- I'll watch the way a man walks up the tunnel, climbs stairs, fails to do his pregame and pre-warm up routine as usual.
- A dead giveaway that always leads to my concerns is when a man starts to rub the back of his calf, heavy ace bandage wrap under the uniform, legs up and stretched out while sitting in the bullpen when a man has never done that before.