Wick’s Setback

 The news of Bobby Wick’s sprained elbow ligament comes as a disappointing blow to everyone here at the Warriors Club. With Bob’s rehab progressing so smoothly over the last year or so, no one could have anticipated losing our hero for another 3 months. But the frustration his fans are feeling over his setback can only scratch the surface of what Bob must be going through. Baseball, just like life itself, isn’t always fair.

 It’s important to remember that all throughout his injury, Wick did everything the right way. He stayed the course and followed his instructions to the letter without complaining. There are stories and updates all over this website that attest to how hard Bob worked and how he agonized over not being able to provide much needed veteran leadership to his young teammates on the field last year. Bob also has to remember that he didn’t let his team down. His elbow let him down.

 The encouraging thing is that we’re talking about Bob Wickman here. His first statement after getting the MRI results: “I’m not gonna quit. I’m not gonna quit,” he said. “ I will pitch. I will pitch again.”

 Wickman’s Warriors won’t quit either. As long as Bob Wickman is a Cleveland Indian, his club will be here to support him. His career is a great baseball story.  

Bob Wickman Rehab Tour 2003…  

*July 28th… #1 Warrior Bobby Wick is recovering from his Tommy John surgery much more quickly than first anticipated and is already up to throwing straight fastballs off the mound in his bi-weekly bullpen sessions. Bob is scheduled to throw 16 minor-league innings in August and September, starting with his first inning of competition on August 16th at Akron, when the Class AA Aeros face Altoona. Yours truly will be in attendance to cover the glorious event for the club.

I caught up with Wick on July 28th(his 3-year anniversary as a Cleveland Indian) for this update and found Bob in terrific spirits:  

 
JL: “I hear you’re ahead of schedule.”
 
Wick: “WAY ahead of schedule.”  

 
JL: “I’m going to my first Akron Aeros game next month.”
 
Wick: “It wouldn’t happen to be on the 16th, would it?”  

 
JL: “How’d you guess?”

Bob looked to be in the best shape I’ve seen him in during his tenure as an Indian, having trimmed down his belly considerably and sporting huge gorilla arms from 6 months of weight lifting.  
 
Bob was also looking forward to the birth of his 3rd child (he says it’s a boy), which is due any day now.  Stay tuned Warriors…  

*July 29thBob Wickman and his wife Sue welcomed their third child into the world in Cleveland. Ethan Robert Wickman weighed in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces. The Wickmans have two other kids, daughter Kaylee and son Ryan. 
“I think Ryan is going to be the pitcher,” said Wick. “Ethan, one day, might fill the middle for the Packers.”  

*August 11thBobby Wick throws batting practice to Matt Lawton, Zach Sorenson, and Jhonny Peralta while accompanying the team to Minneapolis. He threw about 30 pitches- fastballs only. He’ll begin throwing his slider in games in a couple of weeks.  
Bob passed his first test with flying colors.
 “It went excellent. The ball definitely had some movement, but the most important thing is I’m pain free,” said the man.  

“Wicky was tough,” said Lawton. “His ball was cutting and moving all over the place.” Next test: Wednesday night batting practice, again in the Metrodome…  

August 13thWick throws 35 pitches in a two-inning batting practice session, his final test before beginning his minor-league rehab games in Akron. Again, everything went perfect:   

 

“There’s no knot in my elbow and no pain.”   “I don’t care where I pitch next year. As long as Eric Wedge taps me on the shoulder and tells me I’m good enough to wear a big- league uniform.”

August 19thHaving been rained out on Saturday night, Wick pitches in his first game in over a year against the Reading Phillies at Canal Park.  

Bob pitched the first inning of the game, which the Aeros won 8-2.

 Bobby looked his old, dominating self in setting down the side in order. He threw 9 pitches resulting in a strikeout and two fly balls, and looked to be in no discomfort as he relaxed and watched the rest of the game with his Aero teammates in the dugout.

August 22… Bob tosses a nearly perfect first inning in his start for the Lake County Captains. The Gashouse Gorilla struck out the side on 10 pitches, giving the Greensboro kids a taste (or smell, rather) of  big-league pitching.

 The Captains posted their 21st shutout with a 5-0 victory over the Bats in front of a record- setting crowd of 10,253 at Eastlake Ballpark. Bobby after the game:

 JL: The elbow, Bob?
Wick: No pain. My ar
m is loosening up real well.
 
JL: What’s your fastball up to? These parks don’t have a gun.
Wick: About 90, 92. I never was a fire
-baller, but it’s coming.

 
JL: Awesome! You just had surgery 9 months ago. Think you might gain speed?
 
Wick: Yeah, I think I might pick up a couple MPH next season. I’ll start again here on Sunday then try to start working in my slider.”

 
JL: I had to laugh at you facing those poor kids out there tonight. How intimidating must that be?
 
Wick: (laughs) Well, it’ll be good for them in the long run. The kids that move on will be seeing that kind of stuff sooner or later.

*August 30: Wick has a rough outing in Akron against the New Britain Rock Cats. 

Bob reached his pitch total early after giving up a lead-off walk and was charged with 3 earned runs in his 2/3 inning pitched. A broken-bat dribbler and two infield hits did in the Wickster, who did manage one strikeout.

 On the bright side, I ran into Bob’s buddies from Wisconsin, who were in town for their yearly visit with Wick. The guys from McAllister grew up with Bob, and he treated them to lunch and tickets to the Indians game later that night. It was great fun for me meet the fellow Warriors from up north that I thought I’d only know through the Internet.

*August 31: Bobby Wick, happy with his minor-league rehab progress, says he’s shutting it down for the year.

 “I’ve proved to myself and the team that I can still do it. I’ll be ready next season.”

 And so will we. Thus ends the Great Wickman’s Warriors rehab tour of ’03. Next time Bobby takes the hill, it’s for real…

Wick on the Comeback Trail

 Bob Wickman speaks out on his surgery and attitude

 Bobby spoke about his outlook for the upcoming 2003 season on February 15th, Physical Day for pitchers and catchers at Winterhaven.

 “When I come to the ballpark, my teammates are going to see a smile on my face. It doesn’t mean I’m happy to be on the DL, but I’m not going to be miserable and bring everybody else down. I owe it to my teammates and myself to be positive.”

 Of course it comes as no surprise to Local 26 that #1 Warrior would take such an approach to what is sure to be a frustrating and grueling year of rehabilitation work. That’s just basic Wick attitude 101. On the procedure itself:

 “They couldn’t detect anything in the elbow with an MRI because a bone spur had gotten tangled up in the ligament and tore everything apart. (Tasty!) They had to open it up to see what was in there.

 It wasn’t like a regular Tommy John where the ligament tears away from the bone. They didn’t have to move the ulnar nerve either.” (Standard procedure in ligament transplant surgeries)

 Well, that sounds like a good thing. Bob will have to resist the temptation to try and do too much, to try to make it back too soon.

 “Dr. Yocum told me I have to follow the rehab to a T. If everything goes right with my rehab, I could be pitching again in August. He told me if I try and come back too soon, I’d be back in his office again. And nobody wants that.”

 Amen, Bobby. Easy does it. Wickman’s Warriors wants our main man on the mound healthy and pain free for Opening Day 2004. Remember, until then Bob Wickman is just as much a Cleveland Indian as any player in the field. The worst is behind us.

J. Ladd - 2/16/03

Molony: Wickman in biggest battle

 By: Jim Molony
 Used with permission, courtesy of Jim Molony to Wickman's Warriors

Veteran reliever realizes he may never pitch again

 WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Bob Wickman knows he may have saved his last game, but the Cleveland closer isn't about to hang up his glove without a fight.

Anyone who knows Wickman isn't surprised. The veteran right-hander has battled his entire career, and after undergoing ligament transplant surgery on his elbow three months ago, it's no surprise the 34-year-old right-hander is continuing the fight to make it all the way back.

"I had to think for a long time if I was actually going to do the surgery, now that it's done, I know it was the right decision," Wickman said Wednesday. "It's to a point where I have to look at the future. Am I going to retire or not going to retire? The key thing was yes, I was definitely retired with the pain I had to deal with last year. But if everything comes back, and I feel 80 to 90 percent with half the pain, I'll pitch as long as someone wants to give me a job."

The surgery is over and yet an even harder part of the rehab process is just beginning for Wickman. Recovery from Tommy John surgery takes at least a year, and more often closer to 18 months in terms of a pitcher getting back to where he was skill-wise. Teammate Mark Wohlers didn't pitch in the Majors until 378 days after having the operation.

Wickman's strict timetable won't allow him to pitch competitively until late this summer. For a guy who had never been on the disabled list in his life until last year, his 11th season in the Major Leagues, the long rehab road won't be easy, even for a guy who was in pain every time he pitched last season.

"Timetable will probably be August, get back in some Double-A games and start throwing and hopefully heat it up in September and see if I can perform against Major League hitters," Wickman said.

The Indians aren't counting on Wickman, who is signed through 2004 with a club option for 2005, this season and will instead go with Danys Baez as their closer. The hope is that Wickman continues to make progress and returns next spring in full health, ready to reclaim his spot in the bullpen. Wickman is tied with Dan Plesac for 44th place on the all-time saves list with 156.

The pain that plagued Wickman last year when he converted 20 of 22 save opportunities is gone, but he cannot resume throwing just yet.

"There's nothing holding me back right now on anything except throwing, we're probably doing as much as we're going to do with the weights," Wickman said. "We'll probably start toning it down once we start throwing, probably in a month and a half we start playing catch."

Wickman has been warned not to push the timetable. So far he has been very patient and following procedures to the letter.

"The doctor that did the surgery said 'When I say six throws, it means six throws (only),'" Wickman said. "That's going to be a huge step (to make throws) at 45 feet. He told me you have to take baby steps, not only because of the surgery, but because you've been taking so long off in the shoulder and the elbow, you don't want to hurt something else."

Wickman works roughly three hours on arm exercises every other day. The other days of the week he spends working on lower body and abdominal exercises followed by "as much running as I can possibly do."

Rehab is generally a solitary experience. Wickman begins his daily routine early, before most of his teammates take the field. He'd love to be out there with the rest of his team getting ready for the season. Instead he's alone, working out in the weight room.

"I come in early, and the guys go out on the field and I'm sitting here watching them from the weight room," Wickman said. "It's tough, because you want to be a part of it, but I can't this year. Maybe next year."

Next year will be decision time for Wickman. All of the weights and exercises, and miles of running are leading to that day when Wickman can return.

Or not.  "I think I have to try to set myself up for (the possibility of retirement), otherwise it would be kind of a major shock if come September and all of a sudden I can't throw again, and that I'd thrown my last pitch," Wickman said. "If I can pitch with the pain I dealt with last year, I can pitch like that through a full season, but that would be it. But I'm not at that point yet, I'm going to work through this and do whatever I can to make it back."

As he has so many times over the years, look for Wickman to finish up strong.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com based in Houston . He can be reached at mlbmolony@aol.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.  

Surgery, rehab ahead for Wickman

By Rob Miech / Special to wickmanswarriors.com

Bob Wickman has saved 66 games for the Tribe and 156 games in his career. (Phil Long/AP)

ANAHEIM , Calif. -- Even though he figured the problem with his right elbow was not minor, Cleveland closer Bob Wickman still paused Thursday when it was confirmed that the ligament in his elbow will require reconstructive surgery.

"You're always hoping it's something else, hoping it's just a little muscle problem," said Wickman, 33. "But when it comes down to it, yeah, the air goes outta the sails. You sit there and think, and say, 'Could that be it? Was the last game I pitched in a couple weeks ago?'

"You never know. I still don't know if I'll ever be able to come back and pitch in a Major League game."

The answer might lie next to him in the Indians' clubhouse, where Mark Wohlers resides. In July 2000, the 32-year-old reliever pitched in a Major League game for the first time since he had undergone the "Tommy John" surgery 378 days earlier.

Wickman spoke with Wohlers, about what the next year or so will be like for Wickman, for about 15 minutes Friday afternoon.

"The main thing I told him was that he'll need a good support system, which he has," Wohlers said. "He has a great wife and two great kids, something that will help him through his rehab. And I told him that there will be times during rehab that he'll have to take a day off, and he understands all that.

"He has my phone number in the offseason, and he'll be more than welcome to call if he just wants to talk."

Wickman has felt discomfort in the elbow since Spring Training, and he was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career July 23. He was activated last Saturday, when he pitched the ninth inning against Texas at home and earned his first victory of the season.

He saved 20 of 22 games this season, and he has 66 saves as an Indian and 156 in his career. He didn't want to ponder the possibility that beating the Rangers in Cleveland might have been his last appearance in a Major League game.

Wickman is under contract to earn almost $17 million through 2004, and the Indians have an option for '05.

"Obviously, there's physical work you put into it. Now there will be more of a mental strain, to see if I'll actually be able to come back," Wickman said. "I guess it's not a zero-in-100 chance of coming back. People have come back before and been pretty successful."

That's the good news, according to Cleveland interim manager Joel Skinner.

"There are so many guys in the Majors who have gone through what he's going to go through," Skinner said. "That in itself has to give you confidence."

Wohlers, once the ace closer of the Atlanta bullpen, was 1-2 in 20 appearances with Cincinnati in 2000, and he went 4-1 last season in a total of 61 games with the Reds and New York Yankees.

Before Friday's game against the Angels at Edison Field, Wohlers was 1-3, with a 5.30 ERA, in 48 appearances with the Indians. He told Wickman that one of the most challenging aspects of the rehabilitation process will be the mental grind of not seeing results for a long time.

"You're not lifting heavy weights. You're not doing anything so strenuous where you can see immediate results. All the little things add up and play a big part, in the long run," Wohlers said. "I guess, maybe four months after (surgery), when at least you can pick up a ball and start playing catch again, you can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

Wednesday, Wickman caught a flight from St. Petersburg , Fla. , to Southern California to undergo an MRI and others tests Thursday under the supervision of Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' medical director and an expert in the arm-reparation department.

Wickman said he prayed and hoped it wasn't the ligament.

"(Yocum) looked at the MRI and then put my arm in a couple different positions, and it failed all the tests we possibly could have done," Wickman said. "He said, 'It looks like you'll definitely have to have Tommy John surgery.' I knew, for a long time, there was something wrong with it."

Dr. Louis Keppler, Cleveland 's chief medical supervisor, concurred with Yocum's opinion Friday, and Wickman was undecided about when he will schedule the surgery or whom he will ask to perform it.

Until Friday, all Wickman had to deal with was pitching on a sub-.500 team and the possibility of an upcoming work stoppage.

"A lot of things have been happening, and things just got worse," he said. "I'll lose sleep over it, knowing I played something and had so much fun doing it, but not knowing if it's over until I can actually pick up a baseball again and start throwing."

Rob Miech is a contributor to MLB.com. 

Well, Now What?

A Message from the President

I saw it coming for a while now, but I guess just like Bob I was in denial. I knew on May 19th when he walked off the mound at the Jake after his first blown save with his arm cocked at an angle. I knew on June 5th at the Metrodome when his elbow went numb after 9 pitches. When Bob Wickman’s slider starts leaving the yard, something is wrong. But like a hound the guy just kept coming back, saying that he was OK. But with a gimme save on a silver platter in against Tampa Bay on August 14th, the camera flashed to Wick sitting in the dugout, and the feeling hit me in the gut like a sledgehammer.

The season started off with such promise: an 11-1 record with Bobby on cruise control, not missing a beat from last year’s awesome performance. At times it seemed Bob was more enthusiastic about the team’s new direction that any of the young guys brought in or the veterans that were getting their last chance to make some noise and go out winners. At times he seemed the only player out there willing to do his job 100% of the time. I’ve never seen the guy in a funk, lethargic or distracted in any way. Always focusing on the game at hand. Thinking. Studying. Analyzing. Always conducting himself in a professional manner. Being what a ballplayer should be. Splendid behavior. God only knows how much pain he fought through converting 20/22 saves (91%) on this underachieving 2002 team. Show me a field with 9 Bob Wickmans on it and I’ll show you a team that you’re not going to beat.

 So now the question everyone is asking me is “What’s gonna happen to Wickman’s Warriors now that Wick is through for a while?” The answer is “Business as Usual.”

Bob needs us now more than ever. This web site is paid up for 3 years, just like Bobby is, and it will remain active as long as Bob Wickman is still throwing a baseball. I KNOW that he’ll make it back. I’ve seen him bounce back too many times not to put all my confidence in him. There’s no quit in this bulldog.

I shook Bob Wickman’s hand at Camden Yards in Baltimore 2 years ago on his first day in an Indian’s uniform. I’ll shake his hand again 2 years from now after he saves a game for a division contending Indians team.

FIVE MINUTES WITH... Rod Beck  

Reprinted from Sports Weekly

Rod "Shooter" Beck has been working on his Halloween costume for about 12 months.  

The veteran relief pitcher has dropped some weight, lowered his body fat percentage and even shaved off his mullet. Don't worry, the Fu Manchu is still present, and by all accounts, he still looks pretty mean and scary.  

Most important, the former Giant, Cub, and Red Sox has a new elbow.  On Oct. 31, Beck will be showing off his new look for about two dozen general managers and scouts in a throwing session in Tempe , Ariz.

Beck, a three-time All-Star who saved 51 games for the Cubs in 1998, says he has a few more left in him.  The right-hander went 6-4 with six saves for the Red Sox in 2001, but his career was thrown into jeopardy when he learned that he had torn the ulnar collateral nerve in his right elbow near the end of the season.  A week later he had ligament-transplant surgery.  The typical recovery time from Tommy John surgery is a minimum of one year, and often two, full years.  

Beck spoke with Sports Weekly's Steve DiMeglio.  

SW.  How’s the arm?  RB:  I’m pretty much ready to go.  I've been throwing the crap out of the ball.  I'm looking to impress somebody.  I’d like a chance to close for somebody somewhere, and I'm 34 from 300 saves and I'd like to get there.  I'm 34, 1 have a new elbow, and I think I can throw another five or six years.  Plus, my wife is kicking me out of the house (laughs).  She told me it was nice having me around for the year, but now it's time to go.  

SW.  How difficult was the year out of uniform?  RB: All I've done is work in the weight room for the year.  Before the surgery I had dropped a lot of weight and I've easily been able to keep it off.  At the rehab center they push you there.  They make you do what you need to do.  When I was with Boston in 2001, I lost some weight and my body fat went from 22% to 9%.  I've lost a little more weight, and I weigh about 235.  My body fat is about 12%, but that will go down.  I just dedicated myself to doing it.  I got on the (stationary) bike at home and just started riding.  Then I started lifting weights, and I'd hardly ever been in a weight room before that.  I started doing crunches and got it up to 250 a day.  Basically, I just started busting my tail to get in shape.  I got down to where I could wear size 34 pants.  

SW.  How much did you miss the game?  RB:  I couldn’t watch baseball for the first two months of the season; I missed it so much.  Then I started to sneak in a couple of ESPNs, some Baseball Tonights.  Then I started buying Baseball Weekly, and I finally started watching games.  But it was tough being away.  

SW.  Speaking of tough, did you agonize over getting rid of the mullet?  RB:  I was looking in the mirror one day, and I always told myself that if I started doing the comb-over thing, I’d cut it all off.  So I got one of those electric razors and took it all off.  I’m mostly bald, I have a better shape, and I feel outstanding.  

SW.  By the way, have you picked up any left-handed tendencies since the Tommy John surgery?  RB:  (Laughs)  I think I had a few of those tendencies before the surgery.  You have to remember that closers are wacky, too.  

Relief pitcher Rod Beck was invited to spring training by the Chicago Cubs after signing a minor league contract.