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August 26, 2011

Collateral Damage

Something Strasburg This Way Comes

by Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh

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Ryan Ludwick, PIT (Mid back spasms) [AGL: 11 (TBD DL), ATD: +.009 (TBD DL)] (Explanation)
The Pirates have started to resemble the Giants in terms of injuries after Ludwick's placement on the disabled list with mid-back spasms. Ludwick's back first seized up on Tuesday night before calming down to some degree overnight. Wednesday morning, it locked on him again, at which time the decision was made to put him on the disabled list.

A diagnosis spasms does not really tell us that much, and it likely isn't the only thing going on. Muscle spasms can be the result of a wide range of injuries, such as herniated discs, rib fractures, arthritis in the spine, or strains of the muscles themselves. There has not been any indication that Ludwick is suffering from anything other than the spasms, but that caveat sticks in the back of our minds. If it is just the spasms, Ludwick should return near the minimum.

Stephen Strasburg, WAS (Right elbow rehabilitation—Tommy John surgery) [AGL: 121, ATD: -.004]
With the Nationals in the midst of another difficult year, fans are hoping to see if Strasburg still has the magic that made him the number-one draft pick back in 2009. Judging by his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, it looks like he is out of the woods. His velocity has reached back into the upper 90s, but the control of his pitches—most notably his curveball—has been lacking in his minor-league rehab starts.

Control is the last thing a pitcher recovers after undergoing TJ surgery, since it’s impossible to replicate the forces associated with pitching in a clinic or weight room. The only way to get the proprioception— the sense of your arm in space and the “feel” of the pitch—is to throw, even though velocity can be improved through strength and conditioning. Pitchers have been trained since their youth to think that velocity is the only thing affected by arm injuries, so it's frustrating for professional hurlers to have their velocity return before their control. Strasburg is going to make one or two more rehab starts before rejoining Washington's rotation. Rest assured that the Nationals will not push him and will have him on a pitch count when he does return.

Ronny Paulino, NYN (Bruised big toe) [AGL: 1 (TBD DL), ATD: +.005 (TBD DL)]
Between the recent injuries to Jon Niese and Scott Hairston and long-term injuries like Johan Santana's, the Mets have been dealing with multiple ailments of their own. Ronny Paulino may add to the injury woes if his big toe does end up being broken. Paulino took a foul ball off his foot against Cliff Lee and has been in pain ever since. X-rays taken in Philadelphia were inconclusive, but that means the toe could still be broken. A fractured toe is more difficult to deal with for catchers, who routinely place all of their body weight on the balls of their feet. Paulino was able to pinch-hit on Wednesday, so this is unlikely to end in a move to the disabled list.

Francisco Liriano, MIN (Left shoulder strain) [AGL: 48, ATD: -.028]
Liriano struggled with his command on Thursday before exiting with a strained left shoulder. The lefty has had trouble staying healthy ever since the magical start to his career, and this is only the latest in a string of injuries. Liriano already missed time earlier this year due to inflammation in his shoulder, not to mention arm fatigue in 2009 and 2010. The timing of the strain will likely cause him to miss the rest of the season.

Colby Rasmus, TOR (Right wrist sprain) [AGL: 2 (19 DL), ATD: +.027 (-.032 DL)]
Tuesday night was a rough one for Rasmus. First, he jammed his right wrist making a leaping catch against the wall, then he hurt it again making a diving catch later in the game. Rasmus has a history of minor injuries in the majors, but they haven’t been to his upper extremities. An MRI was interpreted as revealing no significant injuries, so it's likely that he will end up missing at least a few more games. Even if he doesn't recover quickly, chances are that the Jays won't place him on the disabled list because of the upcoming roster expansion on September 1st.

Manny Parra, MIL (Left elbow surgery—Screw replacement) [AGL: 106, ATD: -.011]
Parra will most likely have surgery soon to replace a screw in his elbow that has been giving him problems recently. When Parra was a teenager, he had a screw inserted to repair a stress fracture in the elbow, probably to the olecranon process or the medial epicondyle, where the ulnar collateral ligament originates.

Over time, hardware can loosen and back out of the bone, causing pain and inflammation. Sometimes, if it persists long enough, the screw can back out completely and act as a loose body, chewing up the joint and the tissues surrounding it. Since the screw is to be replaced rather than simply removed, the bone still needs to be stabilized. Between the back and elbow, the season has been a lost one for Parra, but he should be ready for spring training, assuming everything goes right.

Flesh Wounds: Joe Mauer was out of Wednesday's lineup with neck stiffness after catching a pop-up earlier in the week... Brian Wilson reported no problems with his elbow after throwing for seven minutes... Adam Jones is still dealing with some soreness in his chest after being cleared of any cardiopulmonary issues... B.J. Upton has been able to pinch-hit for the last few days but still is unable to throw well enough to play the field... Brennan Boesch aggravated his right thumb strain on Wednesday, and the Tigers fear it may be serious... Justin Upton was back in the lineup one day after getting plunked in the left elbow... David Ortiz returned to the lineup 10 days after first missing time for heel bursitis... Ryan Howard returned to the lineup after taking one day off to rest his own foot bursitis... Sergio Escalona was placed on the disabled list with left elbow tendinitis... Jayson Werth strained his groin on Tuesday but was already back in the lineup yesterday for the Nationals... Ryan Mattheus,however, left last night's game with tightness in his right shoulder.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here
Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Back,  Elbow,  Elbow Stiffness

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