On the mend from recent elbow surgery, Washington reliever Luis Ayala is back on the shelf following his brief stint for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. The Nationals maintain this could’ve been avoided, writes the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga.
“We thought it was a bad decision to let him pitch,” team president Tony Tavares said by phone Friday from Washington. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. You know what surgery is like on elbows. It takes time to rebound from them. It’s usually a process that has a certain cadence to it. This was accelerating that cadence. We were concerned, very concerned — and as it shows right now, for good reason.”
When Ayala — who appeared to be using an awkward, sidearm motion — sent his final pitch to Alex Rodriguez on Thursday night, the pertinent point seemed to be that he missed the strike zone with the count full. Rodriguez walked, keeping the United States at least momentarily alive in the ninth inning. But the ramifications were felt more acutely here, more than 2,500 miles from Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where Mexico beat the U.S. team, 2-1.
Moments later, and Ayala was out of the game. His agent, Joseph Longo, said Ayala had complained that his elbow was “tight” during spring training and at the tournament. The Nationals pleaded with Ayala not to play, but he went anyway, in part because there was pressure to compete for his country. He and former Nationals Vinny Castilla, Esteban Loaiza and Antonio Osuna made up a strong Mexican contingent on the 2005 Washington team, often speaking emotionally about their home country.
“The gist I got was there was patriotic pressure, yes,” Longo said by phone. “It was a combination of the press, of pride and of machismo. But at the same time, I do know that myself and some of the veterans — Loaiza and Osuna, in particular — told him to be careful, to not come back too fast.”