ByÂ BRIAN COSTA viaÂ Wall Street Journal
In their quest to avoid injuries, pitchers have tried everything from wrapping their arms in ice to soaking in whirlpools. Theyâ€™ve had their pitch counts limited, their innings curtailed and their mechanics dissected.
Now, some of them are experimenting with an improbable source of protection: T-shirts.
Mets pitchers Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell are among a growing number of major leaguers who are wearing Intelliskin posture correction shirts, at least during off-field workouts. Mets reliever Jon Rauch has also ordered one.
The ultra-tight compression shirts, which are described as a â€œsecond skin,â€ are designed to promote proper spinal alignment, which could help prevent shoulder injuries.
â€œItâ€™s supposed to keep your shoulders back and keep you from slouching,â€ Parnell said. â€œIt might be a gimmick, but I think it feels good.â€
That players are wearing them at all is partly a reflection of Intelliskin. Last month, leading orthopedic surgeon James Andrews released a study that showed the shirts helped pitchers increase velocity and delay fatigue. In a statement released by the company, Andrews touted the potential of the shirts to help prevent injuries and aid in rehabilitation.
But they also speak to the willingness of baseball players to try just about any new gadget that might somehow enhance their performance or durability.
There is a cottage industry of companies selling specialized equipment and workout gear that send free samples to major-league teams. Players who try their products and like them provide the ultimate endorsement. And even players who donâ€™t like a product can still provide valuable feedback to the company.
â€œWeâ€™re like guinea pigs,â€ Gee said.
Reliever Tim Byrdak said one company sent the Mets batting gloves with heavily padded fingers. They supposedly offer protection in case the player is hit by a pitch. â€œNobody liked them,â€ he said.
In 2008, when Byrdak was in spring training with the Detroit Tigers, there was a company that sent their pitchers mouthpieces to wear on the mound.
â€œThey did a study that showed if you wear this mouthpiece, the way your jaw is, it takes pressure off your head and allows you to stay more focused on what youâ€™re doing,â€ he said. â€œI remember the guys that had it tried to pitch with it andâ€¦half the time youâ€™d see them just spit it out on the mound.â€
Sometimes, even products that have little actual value catch on. When Gee was in the minors, a trainer handed out hologram bracelets one day. Gee tried it on and has worn one ever since. â€œI donâ€™t even know what itâ€™s supposed to do,â€ he said.
Tim Brown, who has a background in sports medicine and designed the Intelliskin shirts, said he started selling them about four years ago. They have been endorsed by athletes ranging from basketball players to surfers. But it was the Andrews study that gave the shirts more credibility in baseball.
â€œIt really kind of quantified what we were telling people and what we had observed,â€ Brown said. â€œWhen our bodies are in good posture, everything works better.â€
Now, Brown said pitchers on at least 15 teams are wearing the shirts. A member of the Metsâ€™ training staff handed them out to pitchers during spring training. Some, such as Johan Santana, tried one on but were not enticed to use it. But Parnell said he has been working out in the shirt four or five days a week.
Gee started wearing one last week after reading the Andrews study. He wore it during a bullpen session, but said it was uncomfortably tight. He is still intrigued by the potential benefits of the shirt, though, and plans to keep wearing it during workouts.
â€œAll of this stuff to me is mental,â€ Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said. â€œIf somebody thinks that magnetic bracelet works, then itâ€™s wonderful. If this T-shirt makes you feel better or gives them that added bit of confidence, then yes, it works.â€
Link to article:Â â€˜Second Skinâ€™ Grows on Mets