May 3, 2010
Under The Knife
A Case of the Mondays
Joe Mauer (heel bruise, TBD)
The term "stone bruise" is kind of archaic and not really that helpful, but it's accurate when it comes to describing what has happened to Mauer. He injured his heel on a play at first base: he was 'stretching' on a close play and hit heel-first, hard. With the type of cleats he wears, it seems that he hit something or hit it in just the wrong way, pushing into his heel. It's a simple bruise, but because of the location and nature of it, there's not much besides rest than can cure it. At first, it appeared to be one of those annoying things that a player can play through, missing a couple days, but by Sunday, it was clear that this was not only more serious, but seems to be headed toward a more extended absence. Ron Gardenhire's "week to week" comment brought out the worst-case scenario, but quotes from Mauer don't seem nearly as dire. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the Twins decided to DL Mauer as a precaution, keeping him out the minimum to make sure that the situation is rectified. There's no reports that Mauer isn't weight-bearing, so the idea that this would extend beyond a week is a bit surprising. We'll have to keep a close eye on this, but there's no sign that this is going to be anything more than a short-term issue.
Curtis Granderson (strained groin, ERD 6/1)
Alex Rodriguez (sore knee, ERD 5/4)
The Red Sox are struggling due to a couple injuries, but now the Yankees are facing the same sort of issues. We'll see whether medical staffs, depth, and roster construction can help the Yanks more than it has the Red Sox so far. The Yankees will be without Granderson for about a month with a Grade II groin strain. That's a reasonable time frame no matter which way you go with the estimate. On one side, you could be optimistic and say that Granderson's conditioning and strength will help him get back in two to four weeks. On the other hand, caution and some normal setbacks could push it to four to six weeks. There's not really much more here to clarify; Granderson has a simple groin strain. Until he begins to jog or run, probably mid-month, we won't know anything new. The Yankees are also watching A-Rod. He was given Sunday off after having some soreness behind his knee. It's minor, but the Yankees will be careful with Rodriguez for the next couple days while they monitor the situation and make sure that the symptoms aren't overlying something that could be significant.
Kevin Youkilis (strained groin, ERD 5/3)
The gap between the starter and the backup, especially when there's an injury stack, is huge. No matter the team, the gap is there. It can be disguised, especially over a short period of time. Still, it's going to be noticeable, the way that it is for the Red Sox right now. Their April shortfalls can't all be placed on injuries, but a good portion of them can. Don't blame the medical staff though—none of the injuries now, save Daisuke Matsuzaka's, was foreseeable or preventable. The groin strain for Youkilis doesn't seem to be something that will add to their problems. Youkilis says he just felt a small pull... and he should be back as soon as Monday. If the Sox are able to heal up over the next few weeks, that will give them a base to come back, though in the AL East, especially with how the Rays are playing, there's not much room for error.
Carlos Beltran (knee issues, ERD 5/11)
If you go back to the Mets' THR, I brought up the comparison between Beltran and Andre Dawson. That observation should be instructive to the Mets. Dawson was able to play for years after his initial knee problems despite losing much of his speed and needing continued maintenance. The lesson is simple: When available, play him. Dawson's career line shows him anywhere between 120 and 150 games for most of his 30s, until the rapid decline at the end. The lack of the big gap, such as what Beltran is dealing with, tells you the relative difference. Beltran's situation is much more serious, but there are also many more options. Once Beltran gets running and out into the so-called "baseball activities," things should progress rapidly. Beltran either can or can't do what he needs to do, much in the way we saw with Lance Berkman. If he can play, he should be doing it for the Mets—the New York ones, not the Port St. Lucie ones. There's likely to be setbacks and lots of confusion between now and Beltran's return, but do not be surprised a bit if it happens much more quickly than many thought.
Brian Roberts (herniated disc, ERD 7/1)
There's nothing worse than an unknown timeline. That's what the Orioles are facing with Roberts. His latest quote of "It could be three weeks, it could be three months" pretty much sums up the situation: There is really no clear timeline. Either he slowly rehabs and gets the back issues under control, or he heads for surgery, ending his season. There's really no in-between, but then again, that sort of in-between is where Roberts is stuck. The medical staff will continue to work toward his return, and there's certainly no lack of effort on Roberts' part. This is really just one of those injuries that will click in at some point, the way it seemed to early this season. Then again, it can click right back out, the way it did with very little warning when he injured the opposing abdominals. Without any new information, positive or negative, we have to aim for the most likely scenario, which is a desperation return around the All-Star break.
J.A. Happ (strained forearm, ERD 5/15)
Jimmy Rollins (strained calf, ERD 5/20)
Things have been looking up for the Phillies' pitchers, getting several guys back while losing Ryan Madson to a broken toe. The team had expected Happ to be back soon, but he's had something of a setback. After throwing a short pen session, the arm didn't respond well, showing some significant inflammation at the injured site despite not throwing full-go or breaking pitches. The team will take another look at where he is and the throwing program, though pitching coach Rich Dubee oddly said he didn't think recovery was the problem. Given all the issues, it seems that there's still something actively wrong in Happ's forearm that is aggravated by pitching from a mound. He's done okay with all the steps up to that point, so there's something about the stresses in that final step that they're going to have to get across. Happ's return is now two weeks away, with the chance of that being pushed further by more setbacks.
Things are also not going that well for Rollins. He's having some issues with his calf when he amps up the running, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. This isn't uncommon, and now that he's out of the initial stages of healing, the vagaries of timing—the reason trainers give a range rather than a target date—is rearing its ugly head. Rollins is having some specific issues with the calf, and it's probably going to be another week before he's ready for a rehab assignment. That puts his return around the 20th, a bit more than initial estimates. The Phillies were always going to be conservative with Rollins, but the "catches" he's feeling might lead to even less running when he gets back in order to protect the leg.
Lance Berkman (strained groin/arthritic knee)
Berkman injured his groin on Thursday, but he was back and playing by the weekend. There's a concern that this is a cascade from his knee, that the gait change that the injured knee caused has led to more problems. Then again, these kinds of things can happen, cascade or not, and there's actually some positives in that Berkman didn't need any extra time or have any extra issues. In fact, you could say that the cascade didn't run both ways. Nowhere in this latest episode was there any sign of aggravating the problematic knee. That's as positive a sign as Berkman and the Astros have had all season. As negative as I've been about the long-term implications of the knee problem, it's important to remember that "long term" can mean "after he's retired." I mentioned Andre Dawson above, and while Dawson did eventually need a knee replacement, that didn't come until 2006, years after he had retired.
Rafael Furcal (strained hamstring, ERD 5/4)
The Dodgers are making do at shortstop, but if Rafael Furcal isn't ready to go on Tuesday, they could make Hu their shortstop. (First base!) Furcal has made some limited progress, even going so far as to get out on the field this weekend, but the Dodgers' depth just isn't there this year, so even the smallest injury has Joe Torre's lineup tied in knots. It's one thing to go with Jamey Carroll at short for a game or two, but over any extended period, he's going to get exposed there, especially with some iffy pitching right now. Furcal will test the leg Monday and Tuesday as he continues to get treatment for the strain. While the ERD is set for Tuesday, sources tell me there's still a chance he gets pushed to the DL. "75-25?" the source suggested with the DL move as the lower percentage. In weekly move leagues, you'll have to decide how much uncertainty is too much.
Verducci Effect: There was a lot of discussion Friday about a statement I made about the Verducci Effect. I said that until I saw a definitive study, I'd continue to consider it. To me, "don't accelerate workloads" is common sense. There are a lot of things in baseball that defy common knowledge, and I'm perfectly willing to change my view when proved incorrect. But none of the studies done have been definitive and I think everyone that's done them, including J.C. Bradbury, would agree with that. I keep hoping that one of the sharp knives here will undertake that, but I don't get to say "Hey Matt Swartz! Get to work on this!" Yes, I know I could do it myself, but nothing good is going to get done that way. I could teach myself algebra too, but you're looking at years and problems. No, I'll just hope and work with the best information I have available at the time. Things change, in baseball and in injury management. If we wait for definitive studies, we'll be waiting a long time. Aaron Schatz reminds me regularly that "the best is the enemy of the better." Please don't mistake "better" for ignoring the problems that have been shown. It's never going to be perfect around here. It's just going to be the best I can do, which is better than the day before, as Prince would say.
Quick Cuts: After watching 60 Minutes' profile on Jose Andres, I'm convinced that there are a lot of parallels between molecular gastronomy and sabermetrics. Both seemingly complicate something that most people feel they already understand, both are difficult to explain without learning a new vocabulary, and neither has a spokesman that doesn't come off geeky and different when speaking about their passion. Then again, after eating at El Bulli, Minibar, or even a place like Craft or Mesa, you won't want Red Lobster again. ... Felix Hernandez will get an extra day between starts after having some back tightness during his last start. This bears watching in both the short and long term. ... ESPN LA is saying Manny Ramirez will go out on a rehab assignment later this week before returning on schedule May 9. My sources are telling me Ramirez would rather not head out, even just for a couple games close to home. ... Brian Wilson was held out over the weekend with a mild groin strain. He's not expected to miss more time, though they will check him closely. ... Andrew McCutchen is day to day with a mild ankle sprain. ... Joe Blanton will be activated for a Monday start. ... Ivan Rodriguez got the day off on Sunday after a big collision. He's not expected to miss much time, which is good since it has been a while since we've heard any update on Jesus Flores. ... The Braves will make a decision Monday on whether Yunel Escobar will head to the DL. His groin strain has kept him out nearly a week and Bobby Cox told the press that Escobar "wasn't close." ... Jeff Francis will begin a rehab assignment soon, though the published timing of his starts doesn't make much sense. ... Pat Neshek will head to the DL and then a rehab assignment as he continues to deal with a finger injury and building back from Tommy John surgery. ... Jeff Weaver threw a simulated game as part of his rehab, an indication that the Dodgers are at least considering bringing him back as a starter when he comes off the DL later this week. ... Garrett Jones didn't have a good weekend. It included a trip to the hospital to dislodge food stuck in his esophagus. We've all heard moms joking about things going down the wrong way, but that's crazy. ... I don't think it will be pitcher injuries that cause the pitch count pendulum to swing back. I think it will be the near league-wide change in patience that leads to things like Jered Weaver's five-inning, 110-pitch outing on Sunday.