Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Stan Conte

Dodger medical services head Stan Conte resigns

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Stan Conte at Spring Training in February (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Dodger vice president of medical services and head athletic trainer Stan Conte has resigned from the organization.

“I want to thank the Dodger organization and specifically each and every one of the dedicated medical staff for their support these last nine seasons in Los Angeles,” Conte said in a statement. “My resignation will allow me to focus on my research in baseball injury analytics as I remain committed to determining the causes and effects of various baseball injuries.”

Conte joined the Dodgers in October 2006, following 15 seasons with the San Francisco Giants.

“I want to thank Stan for his contributions to the Dodgers over the past nine years as well as all he has done for the entire community of sports medicine,” said Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “He was an integral member of the organization and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

In case you missed it: Power to the people

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By Jon Weisman

Back on Valentine’s Day, Cary Osborne made the case that the Dodgers should have at least as much power in 2015 than they had in 2014. While the regular season will tell the tale, so far Spring Training has done little to undermine the theory.

With four homers today in their 9-5 victory over San Diego, the Dodgers extended their MLB lead in exhibition tater trots with 37, seven more than the Kris Bryant-led Chicago Cubs.

Yasiel Puig started things with a monster blast that bounced off the wall in front of the Dodger clubhouse building in the first inning (following, it should be noted, a prime piece of small ball by Jimmy Rollins, who bunted for a base hit).

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Joc Pederson, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke followed with round-trippers.

Andre Ethier and Alex Guerrero, sharing the No. 7 slot in the order and left field, combined to go 3 for 4, including two doubles for Ethier.

Also from today …

  • The Dodgers might not have a designated closer while Kenley Jansen is on the disabled list, writes Bill Plunkett of the Register, and while some like David Aardsma argue differently, Jansen himself suggests that the idea of a ninth-inning mindset is overblown:

    “That’s how you start to (confuse) yourself,” Jansen said. “If you’re going to start thinking about eighth or ninth or whatever, you’re going to mess yourself up.

    “Let me tell you something – guys come in the sixth, seventh inning with guys on base, game on the line. That’s harder than what I have to do, going out there with a clean (ninth) inning. Sometimes they (deserve) the save because I get a clean inning.”

  • After today’s seven-pitcher bullpen game, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com takes stock of the relievers. Yimi Garcia, among others, continues to turn heads.
  • Stan Conte spoke to Tom Verducci of SI.com about the Dodgers’ new partnership with Kitman Labs to help prevent injuries.

    “The idea,” continued Conte, “is that you set these marks and if a player is having an issue with a lack of motion or lack of strength—and we know that because we can measure it two or three times per week—the program will alert you that this guy is declining in this area, and maybe you should take a look at him. We always talk about players who don’t tell you when they’re hurt, or they don’t know the difference between pain and an injury. Well, if we have the right system biometrics can tell us there is a slight decline before he gets injured.”

  • Don’t miss out on your Dodgers mini plan

Dodgers partner with Kitman Labs on injury prevention

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Stan Conte at Spring Training in February (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have partnered with Kitman Labs, a sports technology company with a focus on athlete management and injury prevention. The Ireland-based Kitman will supply the Dodgers with a full suite of products.

Dodger vice president of medical services Stan Conte said the team has been working with Kitman for more than a year “to help modify Kitman Labs’ sports prevention program to make it applicable to professional baseball players.” Kitman is making its first foray into U.S. professional sports, after achieving success in soccer and rugby overseas.

“Kitman Labs has been successful in using player biometric measurements with other workload metrics to identify, in real time, soccer and rugby players who may be at risk for injuries,” Conte said in a press release. “They believe they will be able to do the same for professional baseball players. We’ve agreed to test Kitman Labs’ system at the minor-league level this year to determine its effectiveness as it applies to baseball players. Depending on the results, our objective is to implement the program at the Major League level in the future.”

Said Kitman co-founder and CEO Iarfhlaith Kelly: “It is hugely encouraging to see such a progressive organization like the Dodgers embrace our technology and research driven approach to help improve their data collection, data analysis, and their decision making in how they work with their athletes.”

Here’s more on Kitman, from the release:

At Kitman Labs, we have developed the world’s most advanced athlete management system. We utilize statistical analysis, scientific research, and industry experience to help highlight, manage, and reduce the risk of athletic injury. We take a unique, data driven approach to preventative medicine in sports and performance analytics.

Our team of experienced sports scientists understands the individual nature of each sporting discipline, and the uniqueness of each club, team and athlete. It is with this in mind that our system has been designed to mold to every need, every variant in each user. Developed to perform in the data driven world of elite sport, we harness available data to find the true source and cause of injury and to intervene before injuries ever occur.

And here’s more from Stephania Bell’s story at ESPN.com:

“We’re extremely intrigued by the concept and the potential of this system and now it’s off the drawing board and into application,” Conte said. “We’re interested to see: Will it alert us to problems before they occur?”

Stephen Smith, the co-founder of Kitman Labs, was an athletic trainer in Ireland, working with professional rugby teams. His 19-person company recently opened a California office.

Initially, his company developed hardware that was too bulky to transport. One modification Kitman developed while working with the Dodgers was the use of a portable high-definition camera to capture movement patterns. The camera connects with a computer and the results are generated in real time.

 

Garrett Gould, Ross Stripling on road back from Tommy John surgery

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By Jon Weisman

Right-handed pitching prospect Garrett Gould, the Dodgers’ second-round draft choice in 2009, had Tommy John surgery in November but said “everything is going great” with his recovery.

“I’ve just about gotten all of my range of motion back, so now I’m trying to strengthen my arm and get it moving again,” Gould said Friday. “It’s been tough knowing that I might not play baseball at all this year, but it’s something I try not to think about. Right now I’m just trying to do what my trainers ask and work hard every day to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

Gould never really got untracked in 2014, finishing his season in June with a 7.34 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings.

“I’m not sure exactly (when it happened), but I knew something was wrong for a little while,” Gould said, “but I thought it was something that I could pitch through and be all right.”

“I started my rehab down in Arizona with our trainers, and now I’m doing it at a place back home in Wichita,” he said. “I’ll be heading back to Arizona at the start of February to continue it down there with our trainers.”

Ross Stripling (68) works out at Spring Training in 2014. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Ross Stripling (68) works out at Spring Training in February 2014. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

During his time in Arizona, Gould has crossed paths with minor-league teammate Ross Stripling, who had Tommy John surgery in April. The 25-year-old Stripling, who had a 2.78 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 94 innings for Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, said that he has done the majority of his rehab in Frisco, Texas — in the Dallas metropolitan area.

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From the magazine: How Hanley Ramirez overcame injuries on way to historic 2013 season

By Jon Weisman

With the April issue of Dodger Insider magazine set to unveil in the next 24 hours, I thought I’d share a taste from the March issue to give you more of an idea of the magazine content.

To subscribe to either the print or digital versions of Dodger Insider, go to our magazine ordering page on Dodgers.com.

Click on any page below to enlarge …

Ow-Mageddon 1

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March 14 pregame: Kershaw’s careful curveball

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Dodgers vs. Cubs, 1:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, CF
Justin Turner, 3B
AJ Ellis, C
Miguel Rojas, SS
Josh Beckett, RHP

By Jon Weisman

Above, my favorite play of Spring Training to date: Justin Turner to Red Patterson on the fly …

Below, news and links aplenty …

  • Clayton Kershaw didn’t throw a single curveball with a three-ball count in 2013 and has done so only once since 2010, writes Cory DiBenedetto in a short analysis for Gammons Daily. Kershaw also hasn’t allowed a home run on his curveball — on any count — in the past four seasons. (In case you’re wondering, the famous “Public Enemy No. 1” curve came on a 1-2 count.)
  • Sam Demel and Kershaw are the scheduled starters for Saturday’s split-squad games. Both games are at Camelback Ranch, though the night game against the White Sox is technically a road game. For Kershaw, it will be his last game action before the regular season begins March 22 in Australia.
  • ESPN’s Future Power Rankings, which “attempt to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years,” place the Dodgers third among MLB teams, behind Boston and St. Louis. A year ago, ESPN had the Dodgers eighth, which at the time struck me as too low given the team’s burgeoning resources.
  • Related: The Dodgers have the best “core five” in the game, according to David Schoenfield of ESPN.

    1. Los Angeles Dodgers
    Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Zack Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez

    This group could be even better than it was in 2013 with full seasons from Ramirez and Puig. Greinke was so dominant over his final 16 starts (1.57 ERA) that he’s a reasonable Cy Young candidate behind his best-starter-in-baseball teammate. The fifth player on the list could be Gonzalez or Matt Kemp or even third starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

  • Manny Mota, who has graciously passed his No. 11 jersey to Erisbel Arruebarrena, remembers Roberto Clemente in this interview with Lyle Spencer of MLB.com.
  • Stan Conte spoke in some detail about injury prevention and predicting injuries at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Analytics Conference on Thursday. J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News has details, and Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com has more as well.
  • Don Mattingly is back in camp today after two days away on bereavement leave.
  • Yasiel Puig went 4 for 10 in intrasquad play Thursday — he starts in right field today.
  • Scheduled to follow Josh Beckett, who is testing a sprained right thumb, on the mound today are Jose Dominguez, Paco Rodriguez, Javy Guerra, Chris Withrow and Jamey Wright.
  • Red Patterson pitched 3 1/3 shutout innings for the Dodgers on Thursday, but Seth Rosin finally gave up his first earned run. If you’re keeping track, Patterson has a 0.93 ERA this spring, while Rosin is at 1.64.
  • Rosin still leads the staff in strikeouts (12) and is tied with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most innings (11).
  • Brandon League talked about his spring to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Stephen also gets Mattingly’s thoughts on League’s progress.
  • Brett Tomko, 41 next month and seven seasons removed from his Dodger days, is going to Kansas City on a minor-league deal, a week after the Royals parted ways with a Dodger teammate of Tomko’s, Brad Penny.
  • Tim Newcomb of SI.com presents a vision of the ballpark of the future. Pretty pictures.
  • Thursday in Jon SooHoo.

Focus on Stan Conte

Dodger senior director of medical services Stan Conte is obviously a key cog in the franchise machine. Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine has the most insightful piece you’ll probably ever see on his approach, his limitations and his perhaps quixotic goals. (And yes, Jason Schmidt is addressed, though not explained …)

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Howard Cole of the Register’s Dodgers Blog doesn’t want Matt Kemp or his fans to get too wrapped up in all this 50-50 talk.

Sue Falsone to take larger training role with Dodgers

Sue Falsone became the first Major League Baseball female physical therapist in 2007 with the Dodgers, then shifted to a consultant role in February. Now, Stephania Bell of ESPN.com reports, the Dodgers have hired Falsone as their new head physical therapist/athletic trainer and will announce it next week. The move, Bell writes, will make Falsone “the first woman to serve as head athletic trainer or head physical therapist of a team in any of the four major professional sports leagues.”

Stan Conte, who has been the Dodgers’ director of medical services and head trainer for five seasons, is expected to remain with the Dodgers, though it’s not entirely clear what the delegation of responsibilities between him and Falsone will be. Assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk recently left the Dodgers for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Update: Bell sent me the following in an e-mail … “As far as her role with the Dodgers, I confirmed that she has always been a consultant since 2007, although between 2008-10 she did have an increased role and traveled with the team, which she did not do this year. But she has always been a consultant to them … until now where she will be formally hired.”

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  • Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series had the Fall Classic’s best-ever single-game WPA (win probability added, a stat that measures how much a player’s performance contributes to a team’s victory, taking into account the situations in which a player bats)  – until Thursday, when David Freese topped him, according to Baseball-Reference Blog.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo’s “tale of perseverance” is recapped by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.
  • Jim Mills writes at MLB.com about an exchange of letters in 1956 between Don Newcombe and Mills’ father, who defended Newcombe against racist name-callers in the stands in Philadelphia.
  • This might be the blog post of the year, from Sam Miller of the Orange County Register for The Score. Confession: My family ate Taco Bell last night.

Lakers trainer Gary Vitti comes to Andre Ethier’s aid


Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Andre Ethier has fallen out of the National League home run lead while on the disabled list.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that Dodger trainer Stan Conte asked his Lakers counterpart Gary Vitti for guidance about Andre Ethier’s pinkie fracture, and Vitti recommended a special splint that appears to have accelerated Ethier’s timetable for returning to the playing field.

… Conte put in a call to Vitti because he knew some of the Lakers players had dealt with similar injuries.

“This was the day before their playoff game,” Conte said. “But he called right back and couldn’t have been nicer.”

Vitti recommended a special splint that immobilizes the first knuckle but leaves the second knuckle flexible. What that does is allow Ethier to swing a bat more-or-less unfettered, which he has been doing in the indoor batting cages. Conte said Ethier already has progressed from hitting off a tee to hitting soft-toss pitches and even catching a ball because the split also allows him to squeeze his glove.

The knuckle that is broken has to be immobilized in order to heal. However, because of the splint, that knuckle can be immobilized without immobilizing the entire finger. That means the fracture doesn’t have to heal completely in order for Ethier to get back on the field. Conte said that when Ethier does return, he will play while wearing the splint, which he will wear constantly until the fracture heals.

This is a major step forward that conceivably could allow Ethier to return from the disabled list as soon as he becomes eligible to do so May 30 at Colorado. And while Conte wouldn’t go so far as to predict that, he did concede that the process is moving much more quickly than it would have without the splint.

* * *

  • Dodger starters have allowed three home runs in their past 99 2/3 innings, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. John Ely hasn’t allowed a homer in 31 2/3 innings, and Clayton Kershaw hasn’t given one up in 22 1/3 innings since May 4.
  • Blue Heaven posts a vintage snapshot of a young Bill Russell.
  • Not sure I’ll be in front of the computer if activation news about Rafael Furcal comes later this morning, but despite the reports of the past 24 hours that Blake DeWitt might be sent down to make room, I find that almost impossible to believe. You don’t send down the starting second baseman in order to keep a guy like Nick Green at the back of your bench.

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