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April 20, 2007

Under The Knife

The Felix Affair

by Will Carroll

Boy, you take one day off to celebrate around here and the whole world seems to end. Instead of lounging at the beach, I fielded call after call on Felix Hernandez Thursday, channeling Douglas Adams. The problem was that, like everyone else, I was left speculating. Hernandez left Wednesday's game, but he wouldn't have an MRI read or see the team physician before Thursday evening. The Mariners handled the process well, making sure that Hernandez was seen in a timely manner in a way that could not be leaked. Then, once the information was available, they released it quickly and clearly. Kudos to the Mariners for how they handled this. As I head back to Indianapolis, I'm making a quick stop at the University of Mobile for a talk with some up-and-coming researchers, people that are not only the future of sports medicine but who do some things behind the scenes for UTK and my football writings.

Powered by enthusiasm born of renewed optimism for the young and very talented, on to the injuries:

  • I hope people install airbags under bridges in Seattle, because from the emails I got, it would seem they would have saved some lives. Mariners fans are a pessimistic and cynical lot by nature, I guess, with all that rain they supposedly get, but perhaps more pointedly their club's history of pitching injuries. Felix Hernandez was dead and buried on message boards Wednesday night, and he hadn't even seen a doctor yet. My best guess at the time was that he would end up like B.J. Ryan or, a better comp, A.J. Burnett, with a mild sprain of the elbow. Instead, the young pitcher with questionable mechanics came away with a mild strain of his flexor muscle. He'll miss a couple starts before returning to the rotation. Just don't mistake this resurrection for a reprieve. Hernandez's mechanics are still so problematic that pitch counts, limits on pitch use, and not allowing him to ride in any car not manufactured by Volvo won't be enough. He's good; he's not invulnerable.
  • "Stiff torso" is not a term I've heard before. It's not very descriptive or informational, leaving us grasping at straws (and sources) for information about Miguel Cabrera. The one source I was able to get hold of on a late Thursday getaway day told me that it's a mild oblique strain, something he's dealt with off and on for the last couple weeks. A big guy with a big swing, Cabrera is susceptible to muscular strains much like Albert Pujols is, so precaution is the smart path here for the Marlins.
  • The Associated Press reported on Ryan Howard that "(t)he Phillies listed him as day-to-day, saying he strained the ligament that connects the tibia to the fibia just below the knee." Medical professionals, do not email me; I am simply copying what was written. To clarify, you sprain ligaments, not strain them, and the bone of the lower leg is the fibula, not the fibia. Let's go all the way in clearing this up--Howard sprained his LCL (lateral collateral ligament), a structure that is actually a secondary stabilizer to the iliotibial band. My sources tell me that the sprain is "sub-Grade I," or as mild as they come. Howard should miss minimal time, if any, and return shortly.
  • WGN TV showed Alfonso Soriano running in the outfield and making cuts, and reports from various print sources say that Soriano took batting practice in the cage at Turner Field. From this information and from sources, it would appear that Soriano is very close to a return. The team realizes that Soriano is a bit of a hard charger, the type of player who will push himself and put himself at risk of a recurrence in the early recovery stages. Felix Pie has looked good enough over the last three games to make people wonder if Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry might make a move now, but without much interest in Jacque Jones, that move will be tough to make. Look for Soriano to be back in the Cubs lineup early next week, though it will be tempting to bring him into the Cardinals series this weekend.
  • Easy come, easy go. Just as Chone Figgins gets ready to come back from his broken finger, Howie Kendrick heads to the DL with a similar problem. "The problem is [hitting coach Mickey] Hatcher," one AL executive told me. "He has that team standing on the plate. They're going to get hit." I still wonder why more players don't use the type of padded glove that Jeff Bagwell wore after suffering similarly on inside pitches, or that they don't resort to an higher-tech solution. Figgins is about to start a rehab assignment, and if he hits, the assignment could be a very short due to the team's needs.
  • Chien-Ming Wang had a decent start in his last rehab outing, so he's on track for a Tuesday return to the Yankee rotation. It's important to remember that the hamstring strain was not a pitching injury, so there's some non-specificity here that should function as a small positive as he comes back. The Yankees also think that Hideki Matsui will be back on Monday, playing right field. He should have no trouble with his hamstring, but he will tune up his swing with a couple of rehab starts in High-A Tampa over the weekend.

Quick Cuts: Late word is that Luis Castillo left Thursday's game with a strained quad. If this turns out to be serious, the Twins infield will be stretched very thin--even with Nick Punto returning--making Alexi Casilla a valuable guy who's probably on most waiver wires in fantasy leagues ... Rich Harden has a couple of hurdles to cross before rejoining the A's rotation. If he makes his throwing session on Saturday, you can be safe in thinking he'll start on Tuesday ... Chris Carpenter has begun a light throwing program. This is the first real signpost on the road to his recovery. Let's wait to see how his elbow responds before trying to fortune-cookie a timeline for him ... Milton Bradley should be back in the lineup Friday. That affects not only Bradley owners, but also those that are squeezing some value out of Todd Walker ... Rodrigo Lopez will miss a couple starts, heading to the DL with elbow tightness. See, no one panicked in Colorado ... The A's didn't expect to get Dan Johnson back this quickly, and perhaps with Daric Barton coming quickly it didn't matter, but to Johnson, the quick return from a hip problem well ahead of expectations gives him a chance to restart his career. He could start a Triple-A rehab assignment in the next week ... Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright take the mound this weekend for the Yankees, the team with a near-$200 million payroll. Guess money really doesn't buy what it used to. Maybe The Boss can convince Ben Bernanke to ease interest rates next time it comes up at the Fed.

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