WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Watching a grounder shoot up the middle of the diamond last season, all Jhonny Peralta could do was flail his arm in the general direction of the ball, and pray.
"I couldn't feel anything in that left arm all season, nothing," Peralta said Tuesday. "That made it hard to make a good swing, and when I was playing shortstop, I couldn't put the glove in the right place. I knew I had a problem with my arm."
Peralta had been diagnosed with total paralysis of his left arm earlier in the year -- yet he opted not to work with a physical therapist to correct it, finally relenting in the last two weeks of the season.
"I could move everything better," he said. "The last week, I feel I hit the ball good and everything."
It's too soon to tell whether Peralta's improvement was a direct result of actually being able to move his left arm, or just the lessons of a long '06 season finally sinking in. But Peralta, taking no chances, had surgery performed on his left arm in December to have it permanently corrected.
"I tried to use the therapy, but I didn't like having the man's hands on my body, unless she is my wife," Peralta said. "This is much better."
Being able to move one's left arm is pivotal for a shortstop's success in the field, because it helps him to position the glove directly in the path of a moving baseball.
For Peralta, the position of his glove became a hazy mystery as the '06 season wore on, and it certainly showed in his performance. He was often criticized by manager Eric Wedge for not getting to balls he should have.
Now, as the Indians prepare for the '07 season, Peralta is under particular scrutiny. Wedge was encouraged by Peralta's first day.
"I was very pleased with what I saw from him, action-wise and moving around," Wedge said. "He's stronger. Physically, fundamentally and mentally -- he's worked all three areas. Having any kind of motor function at all, at or below his left shoulder, should help him with his overall game."
Despite the inconvenience of therapy, Peralta feels that actually being able to move his left arm helped him in both phases of the game last September.
"I will be able to play better when I am moving my left arm," Peralta said.
(With apologies to A.C.)