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    After time away, Dodgers’ Blake Treinen enjoying chance to compete again
    • July 8, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — A proudly religious man, Dodgers relief pitcher Blake Treinen relied on reading the Bible to get through nearly two years of shoulder pain, surgery and rehabilitation.

    But there were a couple other proverbs that stayed in his mind. He remembered hearing Kobe Bryant’s advice once – don’t fall in love with the game, fall in love with the process. And that great philosopher Mike Tyson, Treinen recalled, advised that discipline is when you do the things you hate like you love them.

    “Sitting for two years isn’t fun,” said Treinen, who pitched just five innings in 2022 while dealing with a capsule tear in his shoulder, had shoulder surgery that fall to repair his rotator cuff and labrum and spent all of 2023 rehabbing from that procedure.

    “God saw me through a lot the last two years. I tell my wife all the time you never know how much longer you have or how much you want to be doing it. But I’m thoroughly enjoying this stretch of however much longer I have.”

    It was a lot to go through for a 34-year-old (now 36) with a full career behind him. Treinen’s return this season was even delayed until May when he was hit by a line drive during one of the last games of the Cactus League schedule this spring. Add cracked ribs and a bruised lung to the list of injuries he had to overcome.

    But Treinen said he never wavered or considered retirement.

    “I didn’t want to end injured,” he said. “My wife and I have both prayed since I entered the game that I would get to walk away on my own terms – not from someone telling me I’m not good enough, not from an injury putting me out.”

    Treinen said he was confident all along that “I’d come back and play and I’d be just as good if not better than I was.”

    He certainly doesn’t seem far off.

    In his first 23 appearances this season, Treinen has allowed seven runs in 20⅔ innings. Six of those runs came on two swings – a grand slam by Kansas City’s M.J. Melendez to end a 12-pitch at-bat on June 15 and a walk-off home run by Brett Wisely in San Francisco on June 28. Batters are hitting just .195 (15 for 77) with 26 strikeouts against him this season.

    “I know the big question mark after the shoulder surgery and whatnot was what was the velo going to be,” Dodgers assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said. “But he’s actually averaging the best depth on his sinker of his career. He holds himself to this incredibly high standard of the 97, 98 (mph) but 94 to 96, zero-vert sinkers are still very good pitches and a lot of guys around the league would kill to have a pitch like that. He had the sweeper that came into play more in ’21. He’s fine-tuned that.

    “For me, it’s just more remarkable that with all the stuff he’s been through to be this version of himself. It’s arguably a better version of what he’s been in previous years.”

    At his peak in 2019-21 – before his shoulder issues – Treinen’s sinker averaged 97 mph. This year, that is down to 94.6 mph. His slider – or sweeper – has also lost a little velocity, down to 83.9 this year.

    The results indicate the changes haven’t made Treinen any easier to hit. His strikeout rate is actually up slightly from his career norm. In particular, hitters are swinging and missing at his slider at a higher rate than ever (52.9%).

    But one thing has changed – an extreme ground ball pitcher throughout his career, Treinen has actually got more fly balls this year than ground balls (21 to 20).

    “Who knows?” McGuiness said when asked to explain the change. “The league knows him. … They kind of know what we’re trying to do. I’m sure they’re trying to cheat to that sinker to get underneath it. That could be producing it. Even the sweeper, if you’re trying to stay on plane with that thing, it’s more two-plane and they end up popping it up. I think that could just be more a strategic thing where they’re trying to counteract the movement that he’s creating.”

    Asking Treinen how he has changed as a pitcher in this post-surgery phase of his career produces a moment of silence.

    “I don’t know how to answer that question,” he said. “Maybe competing like I still have the same stuff and not really paying attention to the velo. So maybe I’m not going to be able to bully people as much with velo and shorter reaction time. But I think my movement patterns are a little better than they were in the past.”

    Treinen isn’t ready to admit his days of throwing 97, 98 mph consistently are behind him. He thinks he will regain that velocity “if it continues to track the way it has so far.”

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    “Last year I had aspirations to be back (by the) end of July or early August,” said Treinen, who made three rehab appearances in the minor leagues. “It just didn’t work out. I tried it. My body just wasn’t ready. I needed a whole year to get to a point where I could throw on a regular basis without being stiff.

    “Based on that trajectory, this year if I want to be this version of myself I can’t chase velocity because my results will probably reflect that I’m not focused on the moment. There are times when I feel really good and my arm is in position to really hammer, trust it and throw the crap out of it. Those are the days when it’s (9)5 to (9)7. Other days, it’s – throw with a purpose and pitch and I’m (9)3 to (9)5, touching (9)6.”

    McGuiness won’t bet against Treinen recovering more velocity. He points to recent work with Dodgers vice president for player performance Brandon McDaniel putting Treinen’s mechanics “in a really good spot.”

    “With everything that we had seen with that shoulder injury and whatnot, there were a lot of question marks about whether he could do it,” McGuiness said of Treinen’s return to form. “But if you know the human, it’s no surprise to me that he could do this.”

    Dodgers relief pitcher Blake Treinen watches from the dugout during the eighth inning of their game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

    ​ Orange County Register 

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