Pirate trainer Brad Henderson checks Nate McLouth after he was hit by a pitch in a 2006 game.
By Jack Kelly Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best medical staff in Major League Baseball, according to the magazine Baseball Prospectus.
The magazine had high praise for head athletic trainer Brad Henderson and his staff, and the medical staff, which is headed by Dr. Patrick DeMeo, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Allegheny General Hospital.
"Henderson's staff not only had an excellent 2008 campaign, but the three-year results and trends are the best in the game," said Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll in explaining why the magazine has given its annual Dick Martin Award to the Pirates. The award, named for the longtime trainer for the Minnesota Twins, was established in 2003.
"In 2008, the Pirates faced the challenge of keeping a young team and a hard-worked pitching staff healthy enough to remain competitive," Mr. Carroll said. "With only 385 days lost to the [disabled list] and only 6 percent of payroll, the Pirates more than met the challenge."
The magazine also praised the Pirates' medical staff for keeping Jason Bay on the field after his knee problems in 2007, and for keeping catcher Ryan Doumit healthy.
Of course, the stellar work the medical staff did with Jason Bay became the gain of the Boston Red Sox, to whom Mr. Bay was traded in July, as the Pirates struggled to another mediocre finish.
But, said Mr. Carroll, "while the Pirates' record doesn't reflect the results of the training room, we've often found that winning this award can be a leading indicator of future success -- previous winners Tampa Bay and Milwaukee won the award at the start of an upswing in their franchises' fortunes."
"It's a great honor for our staff," Mr. Henderson said. "We do all we can to help these guys stay on the field and be as good as they can be."
Part of the reason why the Pirates had the lowest number of days on the disabled list of any team in the major leagues last year is because the trainers and the medical staff are proactive, Mr. Henderson said.
"We do functional assessments on each of our guys at least twice a year," he said.
In addition to Mr. Henderson, the Pirates' training staff consists of Mike Sandoval, assistant athletic trainer; Erwin Valencia, rehabilitation coordinator; Frank Velasquez, strength and conditioning coordinator, and Kiyoshi Momose, Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator.
A number of physicians at Allegheny General Hospital assist Dr. DeMeo in providing medical support to the training staff. Chief among is Dr. Edward Snell.
The Dick Martin award is "wonderful recognition for all the medical staff and the training staff," Dr. DeMeo said. "It's also a tribute to the hard work of the players."