The most obvious byproducts of the ongoing MLB lockout are the moratorium on transactions and the inability of teams and players to communicate. That might not be such a big deal for veterans who’ve got their offseason routine down pat, but it’s created some tricky situations for players who might just be getting used to the league or a new team.
Such is the case for Nick Madrigal, who is still working to rehab the surgically-repaired hamstring that ended his season last June. The Cubs obviously knew about the injury when they acquired him along with Codi Heuer in exchange for Craig Kimbrel at the deadline, and Madrigal reported to the team’s facility in August once he was able to get after his training in a more meaningful way.
Things appeared to be progressing according to plan and Madrigal had worked his way back up to hitting when the lockout was imposed, at which point he could no longer use the Cubs’ facilities or have contact with team trainers. Ken Rosenthal lays the story out in great detail, including a last-second change of plans when it came to Madrigal closing on a house near White Sox camp, in a great piece for The Athletic.
The 24-year-old infielder opted to continue his rehab at Helix Human Performance, a Scottsdale-area outfit owned by fellow Elk Grove, CA native Richie Henderson. Not to be confused with either Elk Grove Village or Rickey Henderson. In any case, the folks at Helix upload videos and share progress reports with the Cubs’ medical and training personnel, who can then participate in a dialogue about Madrigal’s progress.
It’s far from a total communication blackout, then, but team and player not being able to discuss the process firsthand is less than ideal. Madrigal isn’t alone, either at Helix or in general, as dozens of other players are experiencing similar difficulties. They just have to have faith in their personal therapists and trainers to deliver the right messages back and forth, which isn’t all that dissimilar from letting an agent handle contract negotiations.
“I trusted them to relay the information,” Madrigal told Rosenthal. “But it’s kind of a scary feeling. You want to do the Cubs’ exercises to make sure you’re on the same page with them. It feels like I should be able to just call the team and ask a question. But I know that’s against the rules. It definitely took some time to get used to that.”
Madrigal’s progress appears to be continuing at least as well as anyone could hope and he’s been sprinting full speed for a while now. Henderson called him “a Ferrari of an athlete,” though I’m not sure he’s talking about Nicky Two Strikes’ power. But hey, having an elite contact bat in the lineup is something the Cubs have missed for a long time now.
While this will probably end up being little more than a mild inconvenience in the long run, you can imagine how the situation could be more difficult had Madrigal undergone surgery more recently. It might also have been more difficult if he didn’t live in the immediate area. As it is, he’ll be ready for spring training at whatever point they manage to get it started and we’ll get a chance to see what this Ferrari talk is all about.