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March 2, 2012

Collateral Damage

Socket to Him

by Corey Dawkins and Rebecca Glass

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A.J. Burnett, PIT (Eye)
Bunting practice is usually not dangerous; occasionally a batter might injure a finger but, only rarely does something more serious happen. On Wednesday, Burnett fell into this latter category. In the video of the incident in question, the ball deflects off of Burnett’s bat and strikes him at the corner of his eye and the eye socket. He is helped by assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano and walks off the field with a towel to his face. After flying back to Pittsburgh for more tests, Burnett was diagnosed with an orbital bone fracture and will undergo surgery on Friday. Bones heal at a fairly predictable pace; players usually return between four and eight weeks. Burnett will have to take it easy, but assuming there is no serious trauma to the eye itself, he should be able to start getting into baseball shape before that magic number is reached. Still, Burnett will almost certainly start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan Howard, PHI (Achilles surgery)
After Howard saw Dr. Myerson, additional information came to light. He had a small procedure to clean out stitch and surrounding tissue; the stitch was an internal one but the integrity of the Achilles repair is not compromised. This is the key: if the repair was significantly compromised, Howard may not have been able to make it back this year. Fortunately, this was not the case. During the procedure, Dr. Myerson consulted with infectious disease specialists, which revealed that Howard had an infection and the first baseman was placed on antibiotics. With news that the tendon is not compromised, the biggest issue is keeping the wound clean and not infected. Recovery from Achilles surgeries are so long and have so many ups and downs that there is no true timetable on Howard’s, but this could be seen as a relatively minor blip in the process.

Grady Sizemore, CLE (Back surgery)
We doubt that Sizemore likes to see his name in Collateral Damage as much as he does, but when you have that many injuries in the last several years, there’s no way to avoid it. Sizemore’s injury was initially announced as a back strain, but concern it was more than that merited additional examinations. As we mentioned previously, Sizemore hinted that he might not be able to return until several weeks into the season. Either Sizemore is Nostradamus ,or he was holding something back: Less a week later, Sizemore underwent a microdiscectomy in his lower back and will be out at least eight to 12 weeks. In terms of surgeries for herniated discs, a microdiscectomy is about as minimally invasive as you can get, and has a good track record of full recoveries. It doesn’t guarantee an elimination of the herniation forever, but it can be years before symptoms start to return.

Franklin Gutierrez, SEA (Pectoral strain)
Gutierrez partially tore his right pectoral muscle and will be out for at least four weeks before he can start start baseball-related activities. Hoping to put his GI issues from last year in the rear-view mirror, Gutierrez will almost certainly end up on the disabled list to start the season. In the short term, that partial tear will hamper his throwing and likely, his hitting as well. Once fully healed, it should not be an issue—though that is little consolation from Gutierrez’s point of view. In about two weeks, we will have a much better idea on how his rehab is going and should be able to narrow the timeline for his return.

Austin Romine, NYA (Low back inflammation)
Romine has been battling inflammation in his lower back since last year, when he was on the minor-league disabled list with inflammation around his lumbar discs. When the team said he was battling inflammation again this spring, only to suffer a setback a few days later, it seemed to be a bigger issue than the type that can be treated by simple anti-inflammatory medication. Manager Joe Giradi said that they want the area to be stable, which is something you don’t often hear with mere flare-ups of inflammation. It sounds like the discs might be acting up again and once you get past adolescence it becomes very hard to heal a herniated disc. There are ways to control the pain between bracing and medication, but the herniation remains basically the same. If they are unable to stabilize and strengthen the area, this could end up progressing into something more serious and necessitate a discussion with a specialist.

Evan Longoria, TBA (Right hand contusion)
Longoria suffered a bruised right hand after being hit by a pitch, but feels that it is nothing to be too concerned about—he did not have any x-rays as of Wednesday night. Still, there is the chance that an x-ray will show nothing but a CT scan will reveal a small crack. That’s getting ahead of ourselves though; as for right now, it seems to simply be a bruise.

Sergio Escalona, HOU (Left elbow soreness)
Escalona injured his elbow swinging a bat and felt it some more when he was throwing recently. He suffered from elbow inflammation late last year, so this is not necessarily an isolated incident. He’s undergoing more tests and examinations but the results of those are not yet available.

Flesh Wounds
Tigers prospect Robert Brantley suffered a deep calf bruise after fouling a ball off his leg on Tuesday... Mark Trumbo received clearance to resume running and full baseball activities after a CT scan on his right foot showed that his stress fracture had healed… Tsuyoshi Wada played catch from only about 50 feet yesterday, but it’s an important step. He still might not have enough time before the start of the season to make a full recovery, even if everything else goes well… Justin De Fratus has been limited by elbow soreness since the beginning of spring training and there is a growing concern that it is more than inflammation. He is undergoing tests; the results are not yet available…Lastly ending on a good note, Justin Morneau is scheduled to play in exhibition opener for the Twins.

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

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