Corey Thurman noticed a dull ache in the palm of his right hand before he pitched July 3. He didn’t want to alarm anyone. He wanted to play through the pain. He respects that trait in other players, so he didn’t think much of it. He used a heating pad on his hand, swallowed some ibuprofen and — as he would say later — lasted seven innings on adrenaline.
He won. It would be his last victory of the month. Thurman hopes it won’t be his last victory of the season.
The York Revolution starting pitcher and former Toronto Blue Jay will attempt to pitch again after undergoing a procedure at the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore last week. Diagnosed with a blood clot in the base of his right palm — his pitching hand — doctors determined the clot is not life-threatening or career threatening. It cannot, however, be removed from the ulnar artery without surgery.
“It has gotten to the point where it won’t dissolve,” Thurman said. “The only way to get rid of it is surgery, and that is something I don’t want to do right now.
“If I want to get rid of it, surgery is season-ending. And the No. 2 reason for not having surgery, I don’t know how I will recover — if I can throw a 90 mph fastball again.”
Thurman’s hope for a quick fix, came out of the Hollywood tabloids.
Dr. James Higgins at the Curtis National Hand Center suggested Botox injections, and Thurman received four — one each between the webbing of his fingers — Friday.
“Those shots do not feel good,” Thurman said. “It didn’t hurt-hurt, but it’s not something I would ever do voluntarily. I don’t know how people do that to their face. They gave me the first shot, and I was like: ‘Oooh, How many more do I have to get?’”
An article by the American Accreditation Health Care Commission reported in 2008 that Botox had also been used in an attempt to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Thurman questioned his doctor why Botox would work.
“They told me it was a very powerful drug, and it could allow blood vessels in my hand to open,” Thurman said.
Stuck in a weird limbo between being injured but still living in York and a member of the Revolution, Thurman has not pitched since July 8.
He asked to be pulled out of the starting lineup hours before the Revolution scheduled him to start July 14. After talking to the Revolution’s athletic trainer, Bob Burton, he confided in York manager Chris Hoiles that he had “a dead finger.” He couldn’t feel the tip of his index finger. He couldn’t throw his circle change-up, his best pitch, the one pitch that allowed him to reach the major leagues.
Days later, Hoiles explained the oddity of the situation: “His finger felt mushy.”
Team doctors with Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists diagnosed the injury, but they wanted Thurman to undergo a series of tests because the injury is rare for pitcher. It made sense to Thurman, it felt like he wasn’t getting enough blood flow in his fingers and hand. But it’s the type of injury associated with trauma to the hand.
“I don’t work with jackhammers,” Thurman said. “I hadn’t experienced any trauma. Who knows exactly why it happened, but maybe it’s something in the way I throw.”
Admitted to York Hospital two weeks ago, Thurman underwent a series of tests, including an angiogram — a procedure in which a catheter is used to release a special dye in his bloodstream in order to take X-rays of the blood vessels and arteries in his arm.
“When you talk about normal pitching injuries you think about rotator cuff, labrum and anything associated with Tommy John surgery,” Revs head of baseball operations Adam Gladstone said. “Obviously this one delves into more of a learning process for us. When it’s an injury that’s not structural in nature, you tend to care more for the player as a person — because you just don’t know what’s going on.”
After seeing a specialist, doctors offered Thurman an alternative to surgery. It’s given him hope to think about a comeback this season.
“I have some pain in my hand,” Thurman said, “but I know for a fact I’ll be able to handle that.”
For the first time since the injury caused him to pull himself out of the starting rotation, Thurman plans to throw later this week. He has an appointment at the Curtis National Hand Center next week to check his progress.
“Do you know anyone who works harder than Corey?” Gladstone said in response to his belief Thurman would return to the lineup.
Thurman withdrew from the team in recent weeks, fatigued by the pain and blood thinning medication doctors had prescribed. He had no energy. He slept mostly. But he sounded upbeat when reached by phone at his York home Tuesday night. He had regained sensation in his finger tips. He hoped to return to the mound at Sovereign Bank Stadium in August.
“We had a lot of fans ask about him,” Revs General Manager Matt O’Brien said. “I think it comes from his natural, charismatic personality. You’d think he was running for mayor in this town. He’s genuinely that polite with the fans, and when that’s gone people notice.”
Thurman apologized to fans who had worried and called the York resident asking about his health. His fiancee, Angela Day, tried to keep family and friends informed. Thurman just didn’t feel himself. He didn’t have energy, and he didn’t want to be a distraction to teammates that are used to see him buzzing around the ballpark. If he looked down, he feared he would have a negative impact on the team. That period of time, however, seems to have passed.
“You know me,” Thurman joked, “I like to talk.”
Transaction update: The Revs acquired the rights to pitcher Kieran Mattison from Grand Prairie in the independent American Association for future considerations. Mattison has not yet reported with the Revs, and may not pitch with York this season. Mattison may opt to stop pitching for personal reasons.
A member of the Road Warriors in 2007, Mattison pitched in Double-A briefly last season after a strong showing in Grand Prairie (9-2, 2.42 ERA).
He has struggled (4-3, 5.72) this season with Grand Prairie.
The Revs, however, continue to work on several deals to acquire players for a second-half push, according to Revs Director of Baseball Operations Adam Gladstone said.