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April 9, 2007

Under The Knife

First Week Roundup

by Will Carroll

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It's been a first week of baseball that's run hot and cold, literally in some cases. There's a ton to get to, so powered by Tempurpedic, on to the injuries:

  • The big story is that Chris Carpenter is back to square one with his elbow. While reports have him not losing quite as much range of motion in his pitching elbow, this still doesn't look good. He's headed for an MRI, and signs still point to this being a case of bone chips. In such a case, the small moving calcifications irritate the elbow when knocked around by the act of pitching. The Cards are still optimistic that this can be dealt with--they have used ultrasound on some players, most notably Albert Pujols with his heel spurs, and there have been some studies done on the use of such treatment on elbows. That said, it's never been tested on pitchers as far as I can tell, and doing so with a big-ticket ace like Carpenter probably isn't the best time to experiment. Surgery remains a possibility, and like Kelvim Escobar in 2005, it would cost him a minimum of six weeks. The Cards will give us a big indication on how long this will be on Tuesday. If Carpenter is not able to go--which is extremely likely--the Cards will go with either Blake Hawksworth or a "bullpen game." The bullpen game would indicate a short-term problem, while calling up Hawksworth is the course of action if Carpenter is headed to the DL.

  • The Yankees are having their share of health problems early in the season, most of which have to do with weather. Hideki Matsui, once an ironman, is now headed to the DL for the second time in his career after being held back by a strained hamstring. While it's not considered serious, the depth situation in the Yankees outfield forced them to make the move. It also forced Johnny Damon to make a decision over the weekend, and he convinced the medical staff that he would be okay for at least limited duty. He pinch-hit on Saturday and entered the game on a double switch on Sunday with no apparent problems. In the another Yankee aches-and-pains development, the Captain also struggled over the weekend, leaving a game after fouling one off his foot, a problem sources say was amplified by the cold temperature. Derek Jeter came back and showed no problems over the weekend, though his defense appears to be suffering some.

  • The Blue Jays are going to be cautious with Troy Glaus over the next few days as he works his way back from what sources tell me is a "mild to medium" Achilles strain. This is a new problem for Glaus, and one that could force him to DH more in the short term. Barring a rupture, Achilles strains are usually short-term injuries, but combined with Glaus' chronic shoulder problems, any reduction in his ability to push off or generate force from his legs could have a cascade effect. By forcing Glaus to try and generate the same torque in his swing, it could overtax his shoulder. This is definitely one to keep your eye on over the next couple weeks. While Glaus' injury risk has always been high, seeing if he's forced to make any adjustments is going to be key for his fantasy owners. In the interim, expect a short-term downturn in his power.

  • The game didn't count, but the injury did. Victor Martinez left Friday's game with a strained quad. Since there were no games over the weekend due to the same snow that wiped Friday's game out, there wasn't much indication on which way they were leaning on a DL stint. The decision, scheduled to be made before Sunday's game, was never forced, leaving Martinez's fantasy owners on the fence. Just the thought that the quad strain might be bad enough to DL him should get you thinking about your own Plan B. The question is not whether or not Martinez will miss time, but if he'll miss enough to make the roster move necessary, or if they could use him at DH/1B and play short-handed behind the plate. The Indians get some better news tomorrow, they hope, when Cliff Lee makes his first rehab start of a planned two. Weather at Akron could mess up that plan, however.

  • Mike Hampton is at the long end of a Tommy John recovery, just over 18 months since having the ligament replaced in his pitching elbow. Due to his knee, back, and oblique, some of that delay can be explained, but things are also looking bad for the elbow. During a throwing session, Hampton felt something in the elbow and is now headed back to his surgeon, Dr. David Altchek, to see whether he's damaged the repairs. Everyone I spoke with sounded very down on Hampton's prospects, but until there's a final word from the doctors, there's really no change in Hampton's status for fantasy players. He should have been nothing more than a late-round upside play, and he remains that, though admittedly the chance of getting a return on that is now a little lower. The Braves are protected both by depth (Lance Cormier should be back, and Kyle Davies had a nice start in his place) and by insurance on Hampton, so the team will be okay.

  • Mark Buehrle is on track to take the ball in his next start, scheduled for Wednesday. The swelling in his arm has reduced significantly, with Monday's side session representing the final determinant. Ozzie Guillen will need to have someone "shadowing" Buehrle, most likely Nick Masset, in case the arm shows any lingering problems, but like C.C. Sabathia before him, Buehrle doesn't figure to have any long-term issue coming back from being hit. It's becoming axiomatic that absent a fracture, getting hit on the arm is a short-term problem. That does not reduce the need for some kind of protective equipment. There are some nice words in this article for 2006 DMA winner Herm Schneider.

  • Randy Johnson had a solid rehab start at Single-A, going six innings with six strikeouts against the kids. There was some concern about his velocity, which was off a bit, and that's something to watch when he takes the mound again this Friday. The next rehab start will be at Triple-A Tucson, and could be his last before reactivation from the DL if everything goes well. There's a possibility that he'll go for a third start (a second at Tucson) if there's any sort of setback, but the D'backs are planning to slot him back into the rotation by the middle of next week.

  • The Marlins finally have a target date for the return of Josh Johnson. Johnson has been working in extended spring training, and is now expected back in the rotation around June 1. There're still a lot of steps between now and then, and plenty of opportunities for setbacks. Those setbacks aren't uncommon for nerve injuries. Just look at the struggles of Eric Gagne last spring before a back injury ended his season. Johnson will need to get back on a mound sometime in April and start a rehab assignment by mid-May if he's going to hit the target, so if you're waiting on his return, you'll get a lot of indications of when and what to expect before he's back in Miami.

  • The Marlins are going to be very careful with Hanley Ramirez. Their stud shortstop left Sunday's game in the first inning, pulling up with an apparent hamstring strain. After the game, sources said that Ramirez's leg was "stiff, not pulled." After the game, new manager Fredi Gonzalez told mlb.com that he was going to give Ramirez a day off Monday, but that Ramirez was already insisting he could play. It looks like this is a short-term problem, though with any leg injury to a player with Ramirez's speed and range, there could be some deficiencies. I'd expect the green light on the bases to come off for at least a week or so.

  • Freddy Sanchez returned to the Pirates after an aborted rehab stint with Triple-A Indianapolis. He rejoined the team in Cincinnati, making his season debut and showing few if any ill effects from his sprained knee. With some depth in the infield, Jim Tracy may elect to rest Sanchez until he's back to full speed, especially if the weather continues to be a concern. Since Sanchez is changing positions, there's additional risk, as well as the complexity of trying to use his range afield as a gauge for his health.

  • Eric Milton returned to the Reds rotation on Sunday after starting the season on the DL with back spasms. Milton pitched to expectations after a terrible spring. Sources indicate that Milton's on the hot seat in Cincinnati. Efforts to trade him have gone nowhere, and unless he pitches well, he's likely to be released in favor of Homer Bailey or one of the other pitchers the Reds have stacked up at Triple-A Louisville. Milton's back appeared to be a non-issue, even in the weekend cold, so at least that problem appears to have been put behind him for now.

  • If you were hoping on having Jeremy Hermida back in your lineup during April, give that hope up. Hermida's yet to start swinging a bat, and due to this long layoff, he's likely to have a more extended stay in the minors. One source indicates that he's headed ultimately for Triple-A Albuquerque where "he's going to have to force his way back up." Watch to see if the Marlins handle his rehab as a normal 20-day rehab assignment, or as an option. The same source told me that Hermida's at least a week away from taking batting practice and "that we add a week to anything when [Hermida] is involved."

Quick Cuts: Mike Timlin will be activated for Tuesday's Red Sox home opener. He had no problems in his minor league rehab and could pick up some stray saves as the Sox play it cautious with Jonathan Papelbon ... The Sopranos is going to have to pick up this bucolic pace. I see where I think they're going with the multi-threaded story, but I hope I'm wrong ... Look for Rafael Furcal to be activated soon, perhaps as soon as the Dodgers' next game ... Chone Figgins appears to be a bit ahead of schedule coming back from broken fingers ... Chris B. Young left Sunday's D'backs game with a groin strain. The medical staff is waiting until Monday to see how it responds to treatment ... Jay Payton has started hitting again, but he's not going to be activated when eligible in the middle of next week ... The Orioles are also still waiting on Ramon Hernandez. They're willing to go into next week playing short-handed in hopes he can come back before 15 days ... I know it's only two starts, but why didn't I see this Kip Wells turnaround coming? It's the perfect set of circumstances for a Dave Duncan special ... If you're searching for saves, don't jump on Al Reyes too quickly. The experienced righty looks like the best option in Tampa, but his elbow isn't going to allow him to pitch in back to back days yet, costing him chances.

Related Content:  Achilles Heel,  Back,  Triple-A,  Elbow,  Quad-a

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