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April 24, 2007

Under The Knife

Norm!

by Will Carroll

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There's a few names in today's UTK that seem like regulars-if this was a bar, these guys would be Norm. I don't like to tag guys as injury-prone, but the simple fact is that some guys are a bit more fragile and unlucky, or play in ways that invite problems. I won't knock them-even the most injury-prone amongst them is still talented, and the work they put into rehab is often higher than the effort level of those out on the field busy "making it look easy." Still, I'd rather not have regulars in this space. Their presence, especially in the case of some of the most talented pitchers in the game, is frustrating to me because it shows just how much more work there is to do in prevention and research. I have a feeling this bar may never close.

Powered by the knowledge that there's two upcoming but not-yet-announced Ballpark Feeds this summer, on to the injuries:

  • Mark Prior will have an exploratory arthroscopy of his pitching shoulder on Tuesday. Jim Andrews will not only look around inside to see what, if anything, is going on, but has authorization from Prior (not the team, as has been reported--the team has no say in medical procedures) to fix whatever he sees. Don't be surprised then if there's a more serious procedure than a "poke and peek," as some refer to an exploratory procedure. Andrews diagnosed Prior last offseason with shoulder laxity, making that the likeliest possibility for a necessary repair. It's quite likely that Prior may be done for the season, but at least there's going to be some certainty one way or the other about him. I'll "Unfilter" the early reports once I get more information, but expect some sort of capsular repair.
  • Let's get a little good news mixed in here. Nick Johnson is finally making some progress from last season's horrendous leg injury. The Nats say he's running and doing agility work, something that puts him on track for a June return. Sources tell me "it's coming in leaps and bounds now," and that "he's actually ahead of schedule." Officially, the team is still hoping he comes back in June, but the nice start from Dmitri Young complicates things a bit. There's really no need to rush Johnson, though getting him back is an obvious plus for the organization. June is actually about the time that the organization will be gearing up its trading machine, making the timing pretty convenient.
  • Nate Silver nailed this one in his latest Unfiltered post. Lou Piniella wanted another reliever, and that's what he got in the person of Rocky Cherry (a name that sounds more like a John Woo hero than a reliever to me). To open up the slot, Wade Miller was placed on the DL because, well, it was easy. Miller's always got something wrong enough to get the doctor to sign off on it. This was a roster move, pure and simple, and tells us less about Miller than it does about the rising stock of Felix Pie. The Cubs won't need a fifth starter until next week, and it's possible that Angel Guzman could supplant Miller permanently. In the short term, expect Miller to make a rehab start or two to try and turn his season around.
  • Sometimes a DL move really doesn't tell us much. Rich Harden moving to the DL barely changes when we knew he was going to be able to come back and pitch, and was really done in order to bring up a replacement starter. Harden has to get back on a mound to work before the A's can set a timetable for his return to the rotation, and that mound work should come sometime later this week, giving us a much better indication of when he'll return and what his effectiveness might be upon that return. In the case of someone like Milton Bradley, on the other hand, the DL move gives us an indication of just how bad the hamstring strain he suffered was. Bradley's setback is going to cost him more than the minimum, as the team attempts to get him past the recurrence point, something that could take as long as a month. With Mark Kotsay out as well, the A's flexibility is put to the test again, but their planning and depth seem to make even this, a two-deep injury, seem like just another bump in the road.
  • With all the positive reports about Eric Gagné yesterday, the quick push to the DL came as something of a surprise. The move was a precaution, knowing that his mechanics could be compromised by something as important as a strained hip flexor. Several emails asked me what a hip flexor was, so here's a nice link giving more information on the iliopsoas. Yes, that's the proper name, so you can see why "hip flexor" is used. The more advanced out there asked how Gagne could strain a flexor in his right (push) leg when its action is one of extension. The answer is that the muscle was likely injured due to tightness that was exploited in extension. Gagné's comments on Monday indicate that he didn't feel pain during normal activity, which supports that interpretation. I expect that head trainer Jamie Reed will be giving Gagné a crash course in core training for the hip flexors and extensors.
  • The Mariners moved Felix Hernandez to the DL, but don't take this as anything more than the roster move it was. Hernandez played catch Monday and reported no problems with his elbow. The throwing session came a day ahead of the previously announced schedule, meaning we may see Hernandez throw from a mound later this week rather than over the weekend. He's eligible to come off the DL on May 4, and I'd expect that to be the case assuming no setbacks between now and then. The DL move was necessitated by the desire not to demote anyone in order to get Cha Seung Baek up to take Hernandez's place in the rotation.
  • The Indians don't want Andy Marte to become a UTK regular, preferring instead to be careful with their young third baseman, pushing him to the DL with a hamstring strain. Precaution is part of it, yes, but the fact that he's hitting around .180 gives them a bit more reason to make the move. Marte will spend his time off rehabbing to prevent a recurrence and working on his swing. Expect a rehab assignment in about 10 days, likely at Double-A Akron to keep him close to Cleveland. There's no real long-term concern from this injury, and Marte should be back in the minimum. In the meantime, Casey Blake will slide back to the hot corner, which gives Ryan Garko a couple of weeks to establish himself at first base.

Quick Cuts: Late reports that Akinori Iwamura has a minor oblique strain. More on this tomorrow if needed ... Mike Mussina is expected to start at Double-A Trenton on Friday. That puts him on track for a mid-week return to the Yankees rotation as April turns into May ... Pedro Martinez is long-tossing at nearly 200 feet and expects to throw from a mound sometime in mid-May ... Mike Jacobs may have once been a catcher, but he hasn't escaped thumb problems by moving away from home plate. Jacobs got hit on the thumb by a screaming Chris Snelling line drive over the weekend, and will miss a few more games ... Wil Nieves dislocated his thumb Sunday night but-get this-was available in an emergency ... Lew Ford had a setback in rehab (a quad strain), which will push back his return to sometime around June 1 ... Anyone have a good suggestion for a baseball-themed dog name? It's a girl.

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