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April 27, 2011
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Erick Almonte, MIL (Concussion)
During our special on concussions, we discussed how the 7-day disabled list functions more as a roster insurance tool for teams than a way to ensure that players return safely, although it does make it easier for clubs to do the right thing. Return-to-play guidelines have been in effect for some time now, so the creation of a shorter DL stint merely gives team a littles extra flexibility in dealing with those pesky injuries that fall between "day-to-day" and "15-day."
Almonte will have to take the computerized tests prior to returning to competition and have them compared to his baseline results. There have been discussions recently of some NFL players purposely doing poorly on the baseline tests so as to return earlier in case of a future concussion, but it's much more difficult to purposely tank a test with the ImPACT system.
The ImPACT test recently initiated a metric called the cognitive efficiency index, which measures the interaction between accuracy and speed of choices in one of the tests. This metric, while not to be used in return-to-play decisions, does measure how hard the athlete tried to work fast and get the answers correct, which gives evaluators another piece of the puzzle when considering whether to permit the athlete to return to full contact activities.
The Brewers have provided no update about how long they actually expect Almonte to be out. Once his symptoms clear, we will have a much better understanding, but at least now you know how well he can be expected to do once he is ready to return.
Jason Michaels, HOU (Partially dislocated left shoulder)
Albert Pujols, SLN (Left hamstring strain)
The Cardinals are calling it a mild case for now. Pujols says that he could have pinch-hit on Tuesday, but the athletic trainers felt that he was still limited in some ways and required more rest. Hamstrings are not only important for running; as a right-handed first basemen, his left hamstring will be stretched every time he has to reach for a throw while covering first base. The medical staff takes all of this into consideration—not just how Pujols says he is feeling. He seems to feel that he will be fully ready today, but this is truly a day-to-day case.
Phil Hughes, NYA (Right shoulder inflammation/fatigue)
Making matters all the more frustrating is the fact that the Yankees felt Hughes was beginning to improve late last week. Unfortunately, he was able to throw only about 20 pitches before he started to experience the dead arm feeling again during a side session on Monday. We should hear the results of his extensive testing today, and at that time we may be able to provide a more accurate prognosis.
The Yankees will need Hughes back completely healthy if they want him to succeed, as he struggled with reduced velocity over his first three starts. Hughes lasted just 10 1/3 innings in total, giving up 16 runs and fooling absolutely no one with his pitches. He had three punchouts and just seven swings-and-misses in his 207 pitches (3.3 percent), while averaging under 90 mph on his fastball, compared to the 92.5 mark he posted in 2010.
Velocity isn't the only thing that helps a pitcher succeed, but the dead arm clearly kept Hughes from bringing anything effective to the mound—the longest he lasted in a start was 4 1/3 innings, immediately before hitting the DL as we feared he would eventually. When he does return, keep an eye on his velocity just to make sure he's the Hughes of old.
Flesh Wounds: Willie Bloomquist was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring... Jose Contreras suffered only a mild right flexor pronator strain near his elbow and will likely be sidelined for three to four weeks... Corey Hart was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday after dealing with a strained oblique since spring training, but he was not in the startling lineup, as the Brewers clearly wanted to savor what might have been one of their last chances to see Mark Kotsay starting in right field.
PITCHf/x data courtesy of Texas Leaguers.