June 2, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Ryan Madson (46) watches game action during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Madson is having a tough year. The 6’6″ closer I like to refer to as “The Unicorn” was spotted playing catch at the Big A last Friday night. I’m not convinced, but apparently (according to those that spotted him) he really does exist. Really.
All kidding aside, the frustration levels must be off the charts for the former Phillies setup reliever/closer who is coming off of Tommy John surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right elbow. Madson hasn’t pitched in a big league game since October 2011. I said Madson hasn’t pitched in a big League game since October of 2011! Maybe the most discouraging part: Madson recently suffered three major setbacks in four months while trying to return to The Show after blowing out his elbow.
According to the LA Times, Madson was shut down after injuring his elbow in a Feb. 1 bullpen session, and he had another hiccup in late March. Fans thought for sure things would improve in April, but it only got worse as soreness after his May 13 inning prevented him from beginning a stint at triple-A Salt Lake. Madson sounds resigned to the idea of letting his arm tell him when the time is right:
"Now, I’m not going to push it. They’re going to have an unbiased schedule, and I’m not going to have any input. My voice has been taken out of the equation."
I realize rehabilitating an injury can take time. Some people heal faster than others and you never want to rush it risking further injury. Especially on a pitcher’s elbow. But if you’re an Angels fan waiting for some new blood in the bullpen, this all just feels painfully slow.
The Angels signed Madson to an incentive-laden one-year contract worth $3.5 million guaranteed. He signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Big Red Machine last season but never pitched in a game after injuring his elbow. I don’t fault Madson one bit, but let’s be honest – he’s getting paid big money to rehab his elbow.
When GM Jerry DiPoto signed Madson many thought he could fill a hole in the Angels bullpen and make an immediate impact. Remember the spark Ernesto Frieri provided when he was acquired from San Diego? That was the lightening in the bottle we were hoping for – another unfamiliar National League setup man who could baffle AL hitters in the later innings of a close game. If only for a short period of time.
But that hasn’t been the case thus far. Unfortunately, we may be looking at a repeat of his year in Cincinnati. Even if he is able to return healthly, I’m starting to question if Madson’s eventual contribution will be too little too late. After all, pitching isn’t the club’s only concern – the Angels lack consistency in nearly every aspect of their game.
So yeah, Ryan Madson is still a figment of your imagination. The player is real but the contribution that we all hoped for is still yet to be seen.