Armstrong stapled himself onto the prospect map for Toronto last year. He went from the last man to make the Lansing roster to becoming a key clog at the top of the line-up and finished the season among the team leaders in average and runs batted in. He also earned accolades from the Midwest League being named to the Midwest League All-Star team. Ironically, it was the end of his all-star campaign that led to some of the struggles that he is going through this season. At the time, however, it was thought that rest and rehab would fix the problems that Armstrong was having with his shoulder. That opinion unfortunately would prove to be wrong.
“I injured the shoulder at the end of last year and I did some rehab,” said Armstrong. It kept bothering me into spring training and carried into the season.”
“I had it checked out down in Dunedin and it turns out that it’s something that I’m going to have to get surgically repaired in the off-season,” Armstrong told InsideTheDome last week.
For now, Armstrong is gutting his way through the season trying to find different arm slots and techniques that limit the pain that he feels with every throw.
“I’m trying to figure out different arm slots so that I can throw the ball from point A to point B”.
Armstrong opened the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays and the pain in his shoulder caused him to struggle early on as he saw his average fall to a season low .114 mark.
“The flexibility in my shoulder just wasn’t there. I feel like I’m seeing the ball fine, I’m just not hitting it as solidly as I would like too.”
It was at that time that he had to make a tough decision. Did he have the surgery now and miss the remainder of the season, or gut it out through the year while following a rehab program? Armstrong opted for the rehab utilizing the technique given to him by his doctor. The program utilizes light weights and arm band exercises to increase blood flow over the rotator cuff and labrum.
“The thing about is that you can’t do it just three times a week or a couple of times a week. You have to be religious with it which is tough.”
Armstrong missed most of the first half of the Florida State League season, however upon his return to the Dunedin line up he did collect three hits pushing his average up to .154. A move back down to Lansing however was in the infielders future, a move that would upset most, but Armstrong understands the situation.
“If I have to be here for the rest of the year, then so be it, and hopefully I will swing it well the remainder of the year.”
Swing it he has. A return to the Midwest League has seen him recapture the form that made him a Midwest League All Star during the 2005 season. Armstrong is batting .333 (8-24), while playing a variety of positions in his return, spending a game as a DH as well as seeing time at third, short and second.
Although his arm his hurting him and there is pain in every throw, the infielder does not let the struggles that he is having with his arm affect his plate approach, instead he splits the game into two parts for himself. One focuses on his offense, the other on his defense.
“The organization always stresses that your defense is one thing and your offense is another thing. If you are struggling in one aspect and you take it to the other aspect, then you are going to struggle with both.” Armstrong said.
“There are times that I have taken my at bats to the field and I have paid for it and vice versa. But that is one thing that I’m definitely focused on this season. I’m focusing on my defense as one thing and my at bats as another.”
The training staff has informed Jason that his shoulder can’t get any worse, so he will continue to gut it out with a shoulder that some days may feel okay and other days will feel like it is being shot with every throw.
“It hopefully will not get any worse, so if I can play with it, there is no use in wasting a full year,” states Armstrong.
It is that attitude along with a surgically repaired shoulder that will occur in the off-season that will see Armstrong return to the prospect charts for the 2007 season.