This is an excerpt from former Daily News editor Dan Good’s book, “Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever”, coming out May 31. It was printed with permission from Abrams Press. While Caminiti discussed his steroid use 20 years ago for Sports Illustrated, the truth – that his steroid regimen was facilitated by childhood friend Dave Moretti – was never told.
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Clap, clap, clap.
Brrr. . . Brrrr. . . Brrrrr. . .
Mmmmmmm! Mmmmmmm! Mmmmmmmmm! Mmmmmmmmmmm!
The MRI machine buzzed and hummed, a chorus of beeps, jackhammers and electric drills.
Arizona, in the spring of 1996, and Ken’s shoulder was acting up again.
The shoulder had acted since his high school football days and then his 1984 season at San Jose State University, when he tore it apart trying to run through UC Berkeley wide receiver Bob Liebzeit, and that continued to bother him throughout his professional career, including in 1992 when he parted ways again.
Pitchers would sometimes stop on the mound so Ken, stationed at third base, could readjust his shoulder joint.
Ken hit hard in the weight room after the 1995 season, working to gain more muscle. But he ended up doing straight shoulder lifts and damaged the weakened shoulder, Dave Moretti said.
Ken tried to hold his own in spring training, but something was wrong, so he had the MRI. A minor tear was found to his rotator cuff, tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. He was told he could continue playing, but any further damage could end his season.
It took him four regular season games to sustain further damage.
He was playing in Houston, his old stomping grounds. April 6, sixth inning, bases full of Astros and left fielder Derrick May at bat against Padres pitcher Scott Sanders. May hit a flare at the edge of the infield, and Caminiti, backing up, jumped and whirled to his left, extending his arm perpendicular to the ground and somehow gloved the ball before landing in a crumpled heap on his injured shoulder.
Cammy had the wherewithal to eject lead runner Brian Hunter at home plate. But instantly he felt a “sharp, sharp pain”. The shoulder became hot and eventually went numb. He played through the numbness, and in the thirteenth inning, with the score tied, Caminiti came to bat with the bases loaded and hit a grand slam to lead the Padres to an 8–4 victory – the third big salami of her career.
The slight tear was now a break in its own right, leaving Ken’s season in doubt.
“He was playing without a supraspinatus muscle in his shoulder,” Padres strength and conditioning coach Dean Armitage said. “That meant he couldn’t initiate his arm and raise his catching arm unless he swings his arm up or nudges it with his other hand.” The shoulder re-injured on April 20 against the Braves, when he unsuccessfully attempted to trap a double down the line by Atlanta second baseman Rafael Belliard, and later as he slipped head first trying to steal second base. He extended both arms during the headfirst slide, but as he climbed out of the bag, Caminiti held his left arm tight and steady against his chest as if in an invisible sling. “It takes a bit of the fun out of the game when you have to play with that kind of shit,” he said after injuring his shoulder. “The game is still a lot of fun, but I just want everything to go well.”
Ken received a cortisone injection on May 1. At that time, the break was not expected to get worse and the pain would eventually subside.
Padres staff – namely Armitage and coaches Larry Duensing and Todd Hutchinson – worked on Ken’s shoulder, focusing on maintaining his range of motion. Armitage relied on a stretching technique known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, “to strengthen his muscles higher and lower. So you were working the muscles all around that. We work on the other muscles of the rotator cuff. I mean, it was going to be a deficit all year.
But there was also another way to build muscle strength.
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Before Dave Moretti started his friend on a steroid regimen in 1996, he said he asked Ken to see two people: Ken’s wife and a doctor. Nancy should be aware of this, especially if Ken was experiencing side effects such as “roid rage”, nosebleeds, sexual dysfunction, or back acne.
“I won’t let you lie to your wife after the struggles you’ve had,” Moretti told Caminiti.
“He spoke to Nancy about it. She cared. She worried about his cheating, some moral aspects of it, and she worried about his safety. She asked me about it and I said, ‘I suggest you guys see a doctor and get his opinion on this.’
Nancy initially said she would support the plan if the doctor approved, Moretti said. But after the doctor gave the all clear, she backtracked. She was a nurse and someone who played by the rules. She couldn’t accept this.
It was bad for her.
The disagreement created further friction for the couple. After overcoming Ken’s addictions and indiscretions, Nancy and Ken found themselves going in different directions. Nancy was with the girls in Texas, a de facto single parent while Ken was playing ball in California, or that charity event, or that autograph show. . . .
Despite Nancy’s objections, Ken and Dave ended up going ahead with a PED diet following a phone call.
“I’m going to retire,” Caminiti said.
“How are you going to retire?” Moretti replied
“I just can’t play like that. I don’t help my team. I’m going to retire and have surgery, get healthy and sign.
“Ken, you can’t do this. You have two daughters.
“I’m not going to sit on the bench and watch my teammates play. I’m not going to watch them go through the daily grind of the season while I sit there getting paid millions to watch them play baseball. I won’t.
Moretti feared that a long layoff, coupled with feelings of helplessness and self-doubt, could prove disastrous for Ken and cause him to reconsider his sobriety. So he devised a three-pronged regimen to keep Ken on the court: testosterone to maintain muscle; nandrolone, also known as Deca-Durabolin, to help calm joints and tendonitis issues (“WD-40 for joints,” Moretti calls it); and human growth hormone, or HGH, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, to build strength around the damaged shoulder.
Moretti was enjoying the first two of his bodybuilding years. He had direct knowledge of their effectiveness. HGH, on the other hand, was not cheap or easily available – one cycle came with a price tag of $7,500. Moretti got it through a doctor friend in Northern California.
The meds worked well enough to keep Caminiti in alignment with her torn rotator cuff.
“That combination of things kept him pretty strong and stopped the shoulder from getting worse, and it actually started to regenerate tissue in there,” Moretti said.
With the new drug regime, Ken couldn’t hide his steroid use. HGH needs to be refrigerated after opening, so Ken was known to use a mini fridge on road trips. Anyone peeking into his refrigerator would learn the truth.
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And then there was this game. . . .
Caminiti had shot himself in the leg on Moretti’s advice, and the area where he had administered the blow was bruised. Moretti was watching the Padres on TV and Ken was at second base rubbing his bruised leg.
“During the game, I called him. “Please call me when you get this message,” Moretti said.
After the match, Ken called his friend back.
“You just televised to the whole nation that you’re on steroids,” Moretti told him.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re at second base rubbing your leg!” “Well, that bothered me.”
“Anyone who was shot in the leg knows what you were doing. Do you realize that?
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“OK. Well, that bruised me.
Caminiti lied about the bruise to the team’s coaching staff, saying he was playing with his girls and tripped and hit his leg on the corner of a coffee table.
Sure. . . .
Moretti considered taking Ken off injectables and tried to figure out what was wrong.
“Did you reuse a needle?” He asked. “I don’t think I did.”
“Do you check that the old and new needles are separated?” “I don’t know, I think it was when I was on the road.”
“Okay, let’s take that up again. Moretti walked his pal through the stages once again: Find your hip bone, get your fingers down, find the area where you would hit the muscle properly without having any issues.