Stammen on lost 2015 season: “We’ve got to be a better team”

Right-hander Craig Stammen has made excellent progress in his return from a torn flexor tendon that ended his 2015 campaign in mid-April.

He credits the ability to stay with the Nationals training staff throughout the season as one reason for his on time recovery.

“The rehab went great throughout the year,” Stammen said. “The team was nice enough to let me stick (in) Washington, D.C., and be with the team when they were home and see physical therapist, (Dr.) Liz Wheeler, and then train with (former strength and conditioning coach) John Philbin when I was at the stadium. Both those two things definitely allowed my rehab process to go as smooth as it possibly could have went. I think it’s why I’m feeling so good right now and why I’m feeling healthy.”

Stammen said he has finally been able to resume some baseball activities, including throwing again.

“I just started throwing two and a half weeks ago to get ready for spring training,” Stammen said. “Everything feels good as new. It feels like normal. It feels like it did last offseason, which is a good thing. So I’m excited to be back at it.”

He said if he had not needed surgery, he would have not yet even started throwing in preparing for the new season.

“Yeah, without a surgery, I probably start throwing the week before Christmas is usually how I did it,” Stammen said. “I’m starting it earlier (this year) because I’m going to have build up a whole lot of arm strength that I lost from the surgery and from not pitching for a full season. I think it’s actually going to benefit me taking that season off because a season of no wear and tear on my arm.

“As long as I come back strong from that surgery, I feel like I’m going to be feeling really good and have a really good chance of staying healthy the whole season and having another productive season.”

This initial throwing is not off the mound.

stammen-grey-throws-col-sidebar.jpg“Yeah, right now I’m just playing catch,” Stammen confirmed. “I’m back to 90 feet this week. It’s just the early stages of just kind of getting used to getting that throwing motion back going again. It’s fun. You never realize how you take throwing for granted, but to be back throwing again is fun. It’s good to be back being able to do that.”

Stammen said throwing again wasn’t something like he had to start his mechanics all over again or relearn his throwing motion.

“It hasn’t been that traumatic,” Stammen said. “My therapist did a really good job of making sure I still had that throwing motion going on. Not that I was throwing things, but that I kept that length in my arm and the width and all that kind of stuff. It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment. It’s more of a mental hurdle because you don’t know what it’s going to feel like.

“All you remember is what it felt like when you were hurt. So the first couple of throws once I got those out of the way, (I said), ‘Alright, everything’s fixed, should be good to go.’ Then I can work on my things and get ready to pitch in games.”

Stammen has been working out at the University of Dayton baseball facilities with Astros prospect and former Dayton right-hander Mike Hauschild. “We play catch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Stammen said. He also works out at a pair of professional training and fitness facilities in Cincinnati.

He was also very pumped up to hear that veteran Dusty Baker would be replacing Matt Williams in the dugout as the Nationals’ manager.

“Very exciting. He’s got a good track record as a manager and a player,” Stammen said. “He’s been there and done that kind of thing. Every team he has managed went to the playoffs and did very well. I think he’ll be a very similar type manager to what we had when we had Davey Johnson. So I think we’ll all be familiar with it. Really excited to have someone with that kind of experience is always pretty awesome.”

Stammen believes he and his teammates need to take the blame for what happened to Williams and the coaching staff, own the tough season and change the culture in the clubhouse moving forward.

“I took it personally. I want to cover all my bases where that kind of stuff doesn’t happen as far as a culture going sour, communication issues and all that kind of stuff. Quotes come out in the paper, making everybody look bad,” Stammen said.

“That stuff just really eats at me and ate at me this whole offseason. I think the players need to check their egos at the door and understand that if we don’t perform, it’s going to put a lot of other people’s jobs in danger. We get lucky that we are players and we’re privileged to play the game that we do and make the money we do. Sometimes the blame always gets pushed on other people.

“I really think that we need to put it on our minds that what happened last year wasn’t their fault. They may have taken the blame for it, but we’ve got to be better players, got to be better communicators ourselves. We’ve got to be a better team. We’ve got a lot of things to get better at and a lot of it is not even on the field.”

Stammen said it did not help that he couldn’t contribute really at all on the field because of the flexor injury.

“Part of that is staying healthy, too, and I’m a victim of missing almost the whole entire season,” Stammen said. “We’ve got a lot of things to do to make sure that we get this ship going in the right direction. But I think the offseason moves, hiring Dusty and the type of leadership, the inspirational leadership that he’s going to bring, is definitely going to help lead us in the right direction.”

He believes last year’s second-place finish can be used as a teaching tool for the club, with players understanding how to not let it happen again. After all, the Nationals had a shot at the pennant as late as two months left in the season, even into September.

“I think all of us players definitely did learn something from last season and learn how quickly things can flip on its end. In the beginning of August after the trade deadline, we were in first place and ended up losing by seven games,” Stammen said.

“It can happen quickly, but if we bring our focus every day and try to be the best that we can be, I think it will work out for us really well.”

blog comments powered by Disqus