10/03/2002 7:42 pm ET
Braves trainer: Fingering a cure
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Atlanta Braves star pitcher Greg Maddux develops a blister and has a start delayed a game, and suddenly everyone's a trainer.
"We've got 50 letters, phone calls, e-mail, people telling us about pickle brine and alum and stuff," said head trainer Dave Pursley, a good-natured fellow who listens for any kind of edge. "Once, somebody sent us a whole 5-gallon tub of pickle brine."
Pursley, who has been with the Braves franchise for 52 years, 44 at the Major League level, said the team's choice for blister treatment is alum, also known as aluminum sulfate, an astringent that shrinks tissue. It can be bought at a drug store and has been known to come in powder, liquid and rock form, but Pursley said he can't find the rock anymore.
It has been known to show up in Looney Tunes skits, such as when Tweety Bird used it on Sylvester to prevent him from opening his mouth. Don't try that at home, by the way; the cartoonists left out the part about alum ingested through the mouth inducing vomiting. Anyhow, alum is what Pursley has used to help Maddux (16-6, 2.62 ERA) dissolve the friction blister on his right index finger.
Maddux went through a throwing session on Thursday, his originally scheduled day to start, and didn't appear to suffer any undue stress. Kevin Millwood started Thursday, and Maddux is scheduled to start Saturday's Game 3 in San Francisco.
It's not that Pursley believes there is anything unsound about the use of pickle brine -- the substance Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan soaked his fingers in for years. "We just go right to the source -- alum is in pickle brine," he said. "Years ago, you could get brine out of the bottom of a big ol' barrel but you can't find it anymore."
For those who want to throw a baseball and not have to go on a brine or alum run afterward, Pursley said the best way to combat such a problem is to concentrate on prevention. Blisters make it impossible to grip and throw a ball properly, a key to pitching. Pursley said the key is paying particular attention to the part of the hand that doesn't touch the ball.
"If the nail is just the right length, they probably won't get one, but if it gets too long it'll probably break," Pursley said, who is retiring at the end of the season. "Then they've got a broken nail and a blister. Once they get them, broken nails, we make false fingernails for them, and take them off after they pitch."
Whatever the preventive measure, Maddux and other pitchers would rather alum be something they taw when they tot they taw a puddy tat.
That's the only place it's funny.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.