Rafael Soriano, a promising 26 year old right-handed relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, was rushed to a Seattle-area hospital early in the morning of Dec. 31st.
Although the problem was not immediately known, a preliminary examination performed by the medical staff revealed that Soriano has several small chunks of ice scattered throughout much of his circulatory system.
Soriano broke into the Majors in 2002 and established himself as one of the best relievers in the league a year later, when he struck out 68 batters in 53 innings while maintaining a 1.53 ERA. But injuries slowed his development, as problems with his oblique and right elbow knocked him out of action for the better part of two seasons. Soriano was still on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery when he was suddenly struck by his circulatory condition.
Seattle's Swedish Medical Center Chief of Medicine says that, had the proper precautions been taken, this could have been avoided.
"I don't think many people recognize the potential danger of having bits of ice flowing through their veins and arteries," says the physician. "It's a very serious medical problem. If there is any reason to suspect someone of being plagued by this condition, I urge everyone to transport that person to the nearest hospital so that an accurate diagnosis can be made, and treatment can begin."
Soriano was long thought to be a possible sufferer of this as-yet nameless malady, but despite the frequent concerns, he never said anything to the coaching staff or team trainer in fear of being labeled a pussy. Former pitching coach Bryan Price admired Soriano's courage.
"Raffy's a brave kid. He knows the kinds of sacrifices you have to make to pitch at this level. He was actually a little proud of his condition, since he knew it gave him the ability to pitch well under pressure where some other guys on the team couldn't handle it. He and I used to spend long afternoons making fun of Gil for that very reason. We're all pulling for him."
Mariner announcer Rick Rizzs was the first person to point out Soriano's ailment in 2003, after the reliever struck out Nomar Garciaparra with three straight fastballs, but he never once thought it was as bad as it actually was.
"Raffy was pitching like he had ice in his veins, so after he struck out Nomar, I said 'Holy smokes, this kid has ice in his veins!' I thought it was neat, and a little distinguishing...wow, I really never thought it would come to this. I wish I'd never said anything. My bad."
Soriano was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Ramon de los Santos in 1996. He spent his early years as an outfielder before making a permanent move to the mound as a 19 year old in 1999. After making the switch, Soriano rose rapidly through the organization, making eight starts for the Mariners in 2002 and appearing in 40 games out of the bullpen a year later. Injuries would sideline him for much of the next two years, but an impressive return late last summer spurred hope that Soriano would be able to contribute out of the bullpen in 2006.
It is not known how soon he will be able to resume baseball activities.
NOTE: This post has been edited for poor taste.