JUPITER -- Former first round pick Ryan Tucker made his first start of the Grapefruit League season Monday afternoon against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. He pitched two innings, gave up two hits, one earned run and walked three batters.
Then, before the game was even over, he dropped a bit of a stunner back in the team clubhouse when he told reporters he is battling Raynaud's disease, a rare condition that causes his hands to feel numb in response to cold conditions or stress.
The 23-year old right-hander, who had a taste of the big leagues in 2008 with the Marlins when he made 13 appearances and six starts, said the Marlins have known about his condition for some time and are simply hoping he can beat it.
"I have quite an issue when it comes to the cold," said Tucker, who pitched in 72 degree temperatures Monday, but who admits he's struggled in camp the past week when temperatures dipped into the 40s and 50s.
"I can't get my hands warm ever. If you notice, I'm blowing on them all the time. I make sure with the umpire is OK with it. It's a tough issue for me. It's really difficult to grab the ball and throw it and not feel like I'm going to throw it at the guy in the box."
Tucker, who is a longshot to make the Opening Day roster anyway, hardly pitched in 2009 despite beginning the season as the No. 1 starter in Triple A New Orleans. He underwent quad surgery early in the season and later dealt with an oblique injury. He didn't really begin throwing again until this winter, a few months after becoming a father of twin girls.
The 6-1, 205-pounder went 2-3 with a 8.27 ERA in 2008 with the Marlins. He said his only expectations coming into the spring were to "come in and get work." Tucker said he carries hot packs with him everywhere he goes to try and deal with losing sensation in his fingers. But sometimes, he says, nothing works.
"It's a syndrome that just comes and goes for one in every 100,000 people," Tucker said. "It's a pretty crappy feeling. I didn't realize I had it until a few years ago when I was playing in a cold place in Carolina. It would just go cold on me, numb. I couldn't feel the ball in my fingers. It feels like there's knives in there."
Tucker said its all a result of not getting enough blood flow to his extremities. "It's just something I have to figure out," he said. "There's nothing that fixes it. It's not like I can go to the doctor and they're going to go here's a pill, here's a surgery. That's not going to happen. It's a mental thing I have to figure out."