Since he was signed out of the 14th round in 2011 for $2.5 million, pitcher Dillon Maples has been one of the most heralded, but least well-known, Chicago Cubs prospects. We knew that he had tremendous raw stuff, and we knew that he was a great athlete. But that was about it. And after an arm issue cost him most of his 2012 season, we probably felt like we knew even less.
Carrie Muskat recently spoke to the 20-year-old righty about his 2012 season and the hurdles he faced, and about what he sees ahead for himself. A snippet:
“My first year of pro ball didn’t go exactly how I drew it up,” Maples said. “I learned a lot from this year.”
Two days before he showed up for a mini-camp, Maples was throwing on flat ground.
“That night, I was eating, and then I turned the channel on the remote and I was like, ‘Man, something [hurts] in my forearm,’” he said.
Unexplained soreness in a pitcher’s forearm is not a good thing.
“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Maples said during an interview in Mesa, Ariz. “I came in and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a little tender spot in my forearm.’ The next thing I know, it turned into a pretty serious thing.”
Maples had a strained ligament in his elbow. That kind of injury can result in Tommy John surgery.
“I really didn’t know the extent of what my injury was,” Maples said. “They told me, ‘Six weeks, no throwing,’ and I was like, ‘OK, six weeks, I’ll be back in 2 1/2 weeks.’ I started talking to Chuck [Baughman], the [athletic] trainer, and he said, ‘There’s this throwing program you have to do, and you have to work back into it.’ ….
The lesson he learned was the importance of following the Cubs’ offseason workout program.
“I take full responsibility for my throwing,” Maples said. “The throwing program is on us. I wasn’t smart with the throwing program. I looked at it and was like, ‘OK, I’ll do some of this, I’ll do some of my stuff.’ This offseason, I’ll follow [the Cubs' program] religiously.”
Obviously you hate to hear about a kid losing a season to injury, and you hate to hear that it may have been related to a failure to adhere to the Cubs’ guidelines. But if it leads to a valuable lesson and a productive change? Maybe it was all for the best.
I remember back when minor league camp broke, I heard from a very reliable source (by way of Kevin Goldstein) that Maples was expected to miss only about six weeks, as his quote up there indicated. Obviously something must have not progressed perfectly in that part of the rehab, because he didn’t end up pitching in games until the very end of the year. Again, that doesn’t necessarily indicate any kind of serious problem – it could have been the Cubs taking it easy on the young arm.
I also remember back when Maples was drafted that there was talk of his mechanics needing a complete overhaul (more than most, from the sound of things). Perhaps the Cubs took advantage of his limited in-game time the last year and a half to really work on that delivery. All in all, there’s a lot to look forward to from Maples this year, and it will be interesting to see his progress.