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June 21, 2010

Under The Knife

A Mixed Bag for the Rockies

by Will Carroll

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Troy Tulowitzki (fractured wrist, ERD 8/1)
Let's be clear: Tulowitzki fractured the hamate bone, one of the bones of the wrist. There have been various reports over the last few days that have said "broken hand." I'll let "broken" go; it's a colloquial term and most of us aren't confused by it. The hamate bone is one of the most commonly injured bones in the wrist. As yet, there's been no discussion of surgery, so the fracture might not be too severe. In many cases, most famously with Ken Griffey Jr., the hook of the hamate is removed surgically to speed healing. If you'll turn to page 130 in your Carroll Guide ... oh wait, you don't have one yet? What's a bit odd, but not unprecedented, here is that Tulowitzki's injury was caused by a pitch hitting him, rather than the typical "FOOSH" mechanism. FOOSH stands for "fall on out-stretched hand", the typical way that this injury occurs. A hard ball hitting the wrist at high velocity will accomplish it as well, but the forces are distributed differently. Initial images didn't show the fracture, but Tracy Ringolsby's report is a bit confusing, saying the fracture was found by Rockies doctors. I'm not sure if that means manual testing, a different reading by a radiologist, or what, and sources could not clarify. Either way, Tulowitzki is out for six weeks, maybe a bit less. Yes, I think he'll be on the low end of the six- to eight-week range because of the odd mechanism, his drive to return, and the team's need. I'm also sure that Tulowitzki will see the typical loss of power in players coming back from wrist injuries, something that lasts about as long as the initial recovery and in this case, would mean it's reasonable to expect the power loss to go the length of the season. He's still a better option that what the Rockies have available and even better than some mentioned trade possibilities, such as the Dan Uggla deal that Joe Sheehan mentioned in his newsletter over the weekend. Watch for Tulowitzki to be pulling on the reins by the end of the All-Star break and yes, that ERD is correct.

Huston Street (strained shoulder, ERD 6/23)
While the Rockies try to figure out how to fill the shortstop slot, they're not as hard up in the bullpen. While Street is expected back this week despite a series of bad results at Triple-A, his physical results matched what was expected. The shoulder seems to be holding up and recovering normally, so it's just a matter of getting his touch and feel back. It's unclear whether the weekend's results will keep him down in Colorado Springs a bit longer while he sorts things out, but even so, he's not going right back to the closer role either way. Street will backstop Manny Corpas at first, but Jim Tracy is one that's often espoused the "can't lose your job to an injury" ethos. That should mean that when Street comes back, he'll get at least a shot at the closer job once he shows he's got his stuff. It's that latter part that has some play.

Hanley Ramirez (strained hamstring, ERD 6/23)
If I bring up Jose Reyes, will you panic, Marlins fans? Oh, wait ... Marlins fans. Never mind. Ramirez's best comp for the hamstring strain is Reyes, but not in the powerfully negative sense you might think. While Reyes had a severe strain low in the hamstring, which is actually a collection of muscles rather than just one, Ramirez's is high, nearer the butt. What's comparable is the type of game that these guys play, reliant on their innate athletic skills. Reyes had his injury, but despite having overcome lesser injuries earlier in his career, he couldn't adjust his game and ended up causing further damage. That's what the Marlins are going to have to guard against with Ramirez. Ramirez is a physical player, reliant on his athletic skill more than footwork or positioning. The slightest reduction in that is going to show up in his defensive performance, something that's already seen as a negative. While some think Ramirez's defensive reputation is one bad statistical year and a perception that he's lazy, small injuries to athletic players often have a larger than expected impact. Watch this one closely. While defense is insignificant to fantasy players, it's far from insignificant to the Marlins.

Ryan Madson (fractured toe, ERD 7/1)
Carlos Ruiz (head injury, ERD 6/24)
I often jokingly keep score in the collisions between players and walls, but maybe we should add chairs to that total. Madson lost his encounter with one back in late April, costing him two months of the season though he's seeing some progress over the last few days. He threw a 25-pitch session on Friday and was scheduled to follow that up on Sunday. While there were no reports at deadline that it happened or how it went, a successful session would mean he's recovering well and showing the necessary stamina for his bullpen job. With Brad Lidge back and seemingly healthy, Madson would likely go right back to the set-up role he's handled well for a couple years. He could go on a rehab assignment this week, though reports have been so glowing that it wouldn't surprise me if it was very short. The Phillies are keeping a close eye on Ruiz after he was hit in the head by a Jason Kubel backswing. The Phillies are refusing to call it a concussion, but given that they are doing some exertional testing before putting him back in the lineup, they're at the very least looking for post-concussive symptoms. That's smart, no matter what they call it. Brian Schneider could be exposed by more than a couple days of catching, so look for Ruiz to be back mid-week or sooner if there are no further problems.

John Maine (strained shoulder, ERD 7/10)
The widely reported "setback" in Maine's rehab is more performance than injury. Maine didn't pitch well in his second rehab start, but with speculation that there's no place on the Mets' roster for him and no minor-league options available, a re-set of his rehab clock might be what the they are looking for. Since the Mets have already been scrutinized for such shenanigans (and came up clean in the case of Oliver Perez), it's hard to believe that they'd risk playing games at this stage. Maine's last start was pretty good, allowing only one hit over four innings, but he didn't have great velocity, command, or stamina. Sources tell me he was fading as soon as the third inning. Maine still has plenty of time on his rehab—it only began last week—so don't be surprised by an announcement that he will need to make at least one more rehab start, giving the Mets time to sort things out.

Carlos Beltran (arthritic knee, ERD 7/15)
Beltran played an inning in center field on Saturday before the game was halted due to rain. It was his second appearance in the field since he started playing in simulated and complex games, but the gap between the two is making many think that his knee isn't adjusting well to it. Reports from New York say that the team thinks Beltran is "closer" to a rehab assignment. One starting this week would run out just after the All-Star break, but again, I think at the point the team thinks that Beltran can play—whether it's in Port St Lucie or Queens—they need to rush him through. That makes the timing of this rehab assignment particularly tough. At this stage, Beltran hasn't proven he can play day after day or even multiple times in a week, so that ERD—any ERD—is a moving target, as it's been for the last year with Beltran.

Aramis Ramirez (sprained thumb, ERD 6/23)
Ramirez had good sessions of hitting practice, but that didn't exactly translate over to games during the weekend. Ramirez went 1-for-6 in two games with Low-A Peoria. He didn't have any reported problems with the thumb before, during, or after, about the only good sign from the rehab. Ramirez did have something described as a "complicated" tape job on his thumb that may have included some sort of splinting. (The source was good, but his description left something to be desired.) Ramirez should be activated as expected on Wednesday, but the results give rise to the idea that his bat control may not be all the way back, hurting his power and contact. It's that latter part that's often most noticeable with grip problems, so if you're following Ramirez for fantasy purposes, you'll want to watch to see how he's making outs as much as that he's getting hits.

Gil Meche (strained shoulder, ERD 7/15)
Royals management is not stupid. There's a lot of qualified, hard-working baseball men in the organization. By the results, however, they're demonstrating incompetence. One of my biggest signals for this is when a front office starts spouting out things that sound smart, but are in fact nothing more than spin. That's what is going on with Meche, who is suddenly working on "arm slot." While this might sound a lot like what the Diamondbacks are doing with Brandon Webb, there's no evidence that Meche has an arm-slot problem. Maybe he does, as Meche's description sounds like the too-high slot that was discovered to be Webb's compensation for his injury. Maybe Bob McClure spotted something on video, but no, Meche says that the Royals haven't even taped his workouts! The Royals used to be a team that was at the leading edge of sports medicine, but that rep faded over the last decade. With a new head trainer, there's hope, but there's nothing in the way of results yet. Meche's side work may or may not work. Spitting buzzwords is not going to help. David Glass' time at Wal*Mart is defined by his rapid roll out of computerized distribution models that remade how America shops. Why can't he understand that he could have the same advantages, very cheaply, for the team he owns?

Manny Ramirez
The Ramirez PED story was very intriguing over the weekend for a number of reasons. Michael S. Schmidt got another great story on a Latin slugger, this time just before a high-profile encounter with his old teammates in Boston. While it seems Schmidt's source is again leaking with an agenda, the story itself actually follows the story line that Ramirez laid out last season after he was caught using hCG. According to the New York Times report, Ramirez and his representatives explored getting a therapeutic use exemption for a "testosterone boosting substance." Schmidt points out that most of the TUEs in baseball are for ADHD drugs, though there are several taking drugs for valid medical reasons. Several have been granted waivers in the past for testosterone itself. These are thought to be very valid reasons, such as being post-testicular cancer like Mike Lowell or Scott Schoeneweis. (Neither player has admitted they have a waiver.) If Ramirez has a valid medical reason for low testosterone, one that could pass the muster of a rigorous process that needs the OK of several doctors and a complete check of medical records, then it's at least possible that his positive test makes medical sense. Remember, Ramirez's positive test was said to be for a medical condition and for a drug, hCG, that had just been added to the banned list in that year. That's no excuse; athletes have ultimate responsibility for anything that goes into their bodies. No one involved would confirm the story, but I find it interesting that it was considered and never requested. Again, the TUE process is rigorous and I wonder if the specter of having to deal with Ramirez's 2003 results held up the process.

Quick Cuts: There's nothing physically wrong with Rick Porcello, to answer about half of my e-mail from Sunday. ... Jair Jurrjens did well physically in his second rehab start, but again had poor results. He'll have one more rehab outing and should be back in the Braves rotation in the first week of July. ... Jorge De La Rosa will make three starts before returning to the Rockies rotation. That puts him on pace for coming back just before the All-Star break, but any delay (or some common sense) could push him back beyond it. ... It looks as if Luke Hochevar won't need a rehab assignment to check out his elbow. He's eligible to come off the DL on June 23. ... Oliver Perez threw 70 pitches in a side session, but the Mets wouldn't touch the subject of a return with a 10-foot pole. ... Coco Crisp is outperforming his rehab schedule and could be back in Oakland ahead of schedule. ... Doug Davis had a solid rehab start at Triple-A this weekend. He'll have one more start there before returning to the Brewers. ... Erik Bedard is scheduled to start his rehab this week in Rookie League. He'll have 30 days after that before he'll have to be back on the Seattle roster, which syncs up well with the time frame they'll have for deciding on dealing Cliff Lee. ... Anyone from Disney World or the Orlando area on the reader list? If so, e-mail me. I have a pretty simple question.

18 comments have been left for this article.

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