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September 6, 2006

Under The Knife

Aches on a Plane

by Will Carroll

Thanks to everyone who responded to yesterday's intro. I really appreciate all the thoughts, both for me, for Jon Lester, and for everyone battling cancer. A lot of you had great ideas for raising money and consciousness for the cause and I hope that we can make some of them happen.

Powered by the new AFI record, on to the injuries:

  • It's not just Francisco Liriano unbalancing the minor league playoffs. Now it's Hideki Matsui, going down to Double-A Trenton to get in some rehab work. Matsui will DH for the Thunder starting Wednesday. There's no timetable for his return, though Matsui told The New York Times that he would need ten to fifteen at-bats before being ready to get back into pinstripes. Matsui has shown no ill effects of the wrist injury since returning to live hitting. He could be back by Monday, the four month anniversary of the injury. At the time of the injury, I said that six weeks would be the low end and twelve weeks the expected. That's no reflection on Matsui's effort.

  • Jonathan Papelbon finally had his MRI and the results are mixed. The official diagnosis is "transient subluxation event due to fatigue." In essence, Papelbon was so tired that his rotator cuff could no longer hold his shoulder in place. The shoulder went with the ball, rather than, you know, with the rest of his body. The biggest concern is that there was some labrum involvement. In addition to the MRI, Papelbon had an arthrogram that he stated showed no evidence of tearing of the labrum. The upside is that there's no immediately apparent structural damage. His rotator cuff was tired, not torn. Papelbon will rest, then begin the all-too-common "shoulder strengthening program." It's unknown if he'll be able to make it back in time to pitch again this season, though that depends as much on the Sox' place in the standings as Papelbon's health. The next question will be whether this affects Papelbon's place--would a fatigued shoulder do better continuing in the pen or would a starter's regular workload/rest cycle help him? The Sox have a lot of decisions to make this offseason and Papelbon will be at the heart of some of the most important.

    Apart from Papelbon's diagnosis, the Sox continue to get closer to whole. David Ortiz was back in the lineup after his cardiac scare. Ortiz was monitored remotely over the weekend and showed no problems. Whispers that Ortiz was risking himself by returning are not true; the Red Sox would not risk their star, nor would Ortiz himself go out there without clearance. Other whispers as to the cause remain in play, though we can hope whatever the cause, Ortiz is now healthy and back to being the most dramatic hitter in the game.

  • Carlos Zambrano is the only Cubs pitcher who hasn't broken under the workload, but even his thick frame gets tired and worn down. That appears to be a contributor to his "severe back spasms" that pulled him out of his last start. Zambrano indicated that he'd been told he would be shut down, while the Cubs denied any such consideration. An MRI showed no structural damage while the standings showed no reason to risk their ace. There's no timeframe on his return, which could be in 2007.

  • "Indefinite" sounds bad. It sounds like a long time, but when you get to the root of it, it just means "I don't know." Ken Griffey Jr. will be out indefinitely after dislocating his second toe climbing the Great American Wall. The toe is back in place and once the swelling and pain is at a reasonable level, Griffey will be back in the lineup. The team will be slightly conservative with him, knowing how big the risk of a cascade is for their star. Even with the playoffs in the balance, Griffey's familiarity with the medical staff will come in very handy for this foot injury.

  • As with Papelbon, J.J. Putz has taken on a new role and succeeded. What we don't know is how fatigue acts on high leverage closers, though their short lifespan suggests a high multiple. Add in the individual genetics, mechanics, and condition for pitchers and you'll surely see why the quest for Reliever PAP is a difficult one. Putz is out with a sore elbow, just after a two inning stint. The M's don't think this is serious and, given their injury record this season, you have to side with them. Putz will get a couple days off and should be back, though the M's will likely get a bit more conservative with his usage. Then again, just after I wrote this, Putz was in the game for his 30th save.

  • The White Sox will have a different approach to September than they did last season. There's no margin of error with the Twins on their heels, not that they ended with much margin last season. Jermaine Dye left Monday's game with back spasms, but he'll be back on Wednesday. The Sox need his power, though there's a question how much his power will be affected by this problem. Dye's vaporware MVP campaign is likely done with this condition.

  • Quick Cuts: Dontrelle Willis left his start in the 7th with a trainer. No word on what the injury was, but Willis was throwing more across his body than normal Mike Mussina came back, but didn't appear to be striding hard to the plate Chad Billingsley had a setback with his strained oblique on the team flight. I have no idea how you injure yourself on a flight, unless there were snakes involved Speaking of snakes, I'm still in disbelief that Steve Irwin is gone. I hope there are crocs in heaven Michael Barrett had more surgery to relieve pressure Clogged tearduct? That's a new one to me, but the descriptions of Jacque Jones' condition sound serious in the short term Anyone noticed how well Corey Hart is playing since the Carlos Lee deal? That PECOTA isn't so far off Mark Teahen had a strange season and now it ends early. He'll have planned surgery to repair a torn labrum and should be back next year. Given his play in the second half, I'm not exactly sure why they want it fixed.
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