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May 2, 2007

Under The Knife

Something Special

by Will Carroll

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Remember when I said I didn't see in Philip Hughes in his first outing as that special? Well, I've seen it now. It's easy to forget in all the hype that one game, good or bad, tells us almost nothing. As memorable as any single game can be, real, meaningful analysis comes in large chunks. Joe Sheehan has made this into a mantra, one we have to keep in mind when faced with things we see or worse, want to see. Hughes came to the majors with a pedigree and the acclamation of nearly every scout that saw him. While I didn't see something special in his first start, that didn't change his potential. Then came the hamstring strain, which we'll get to in a bit. It wasn't the way anyone wanted to see it end. For one night, Philip Hughes was not only unhittable, he was special, making his injury all the more agonizing.

Powered by Delta (in the hopes they make my flights to Tampa run on time), on to the injuries:

  • If I hadn't been watching the game, I wouldn't have been expecting the email barrage. Jay Jaffe sent me an unprintable text just moments after and then my e-mail box started filling up with the virtual wailing, the rending of pinstriped garments, and the echoes of gnashed teeth. While I'm good, people asked for info on Hughes with incredible speed; even if I had cameras in the training room, I probably wouldn't have known much. Word from the Yankees is that it's a significant strain, likely a Grade II strain. It is notable that it's his landing leg, not his push leg, just as it was for Mike Mussina.

    According to Peter Abraham, Hughes injured himself by stretching too far, trying to get more on the pitch. One source and I talked about "snapping," which would indicate some sort of tendonous involvement, but as yet, there's no official word on that. If there is, there will need to be an MRI. Any swelling or bruising would need to be reduced, so don't be surprised if this is held off until later in the week. This is the third hamstring strain to a Yankees starter, which goes beyond coincidence. I won't pretend to know why, but this is definitely something that has to be a matter of great concern to the Yankees.

    A lot of people are pointing fingers over the decision to call up Hughes and "risking" him. I don't understand this line of thinking at all. In fact, it's counter to the concept Gary Huckabay introduced in his Giants Hope and Faith article, one I wholeheartedly endorse. Hughes injured himself during the course of a no-hitter. He looked phenomenal throughout, so explain to me how he was rushed. Go ahead, I'll wait. Unfortunate? Yes. Foreseeable? Unlikely. If this had happened in Scranton, it would have had no value to the Yankees at all. This, at least, had some. Mike Mussina comes back on Thursday, dulling the blow a little. Given that Mussina missed three weeks with a Grade I+ strain, the four to six week timeframe we're hearing for Hughes seems reasonable. Let's just hope that this is a minor setback, and not something more significant that keeps him from reaching his upside.

  • The Braves got a real scare when Brian McCann got his glove a bit too close--interference close--to a bat. He took the swing off his previously injured left ring finger, and while x-rays were negative, McCann hasn't hit well since the initial injury. Finger injuries can be lingering things, as any owner of Coco Crisp last season can tell you. Adding to the problem is the normal beating that a catcher's hand takes--even with the best glove, catching it in the web every time (which never happens), and even with treatment, McCann is still going to be exacerbating the problem every time he pulls in a pitch. This sets up an interesting dilemma for Bobby Cox--does he keep sending McCann out there, try reducing his playing time and giving up some offense by using Brayan Pena, or does he notice that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hitting over .300 with good power down in Double-A Mississippi?
  • I'm not exactly sure what the difference is between "throwing to teammates" and batting practice is, but the Cardinals writers all seemed to make a point of it in discussing Chris Carpenter's progress on Tuesday. Carpenter did make it through this 'teammate' session without any problem, but as always the real test will be how his elbow comes out of it the following day. If Carpenter comes into the training room without problems, the Cardinals will then have the interesting decision of how to bring him back. The first step will be a simulated game, perhaps as early as Thursday, an off day for the Cards. After that, the fork in the decision tree comes--do they send Carpenter to the minors for a start, or put him on a strict pitch count and bring him right back into the big league rotation? The latter is actually the preferable option, if not the conservative one, though the decision will be made in large part by how the team's braintrust feels about their situation. The Cardinals are in last place in the division, only a couple out from second, but 6.5 games behind the streaking Brewers. We'll have learned a lot by next week, and more about the Cardinals' current state of mind.
  • The Rangers have been no-hit twice in the past two weeks by starters. For a supposedly good-hitting team, that's a source of worry. Did they just catch two guys--Mark Buehrle and Hughes--on the wrong night, or is there something fundamentally streaky about this lineup? Certainly not many players in the lineup are playing up to their expected levels. As for the shoulder injury to Frank Catalanotto, the "burning, tearing" sensation he had was, according to an MRI, an acute strain in his shoulder. Interestingly, it was the bicep muscle that strained. This is interesting because the bicep for the most part isn't a part of the throwing process until its opposition to the triceps extensor action comes into play. Normally, the throwing motion is slowed by the follow-through and rotator cuff much more, so it's safe to assume that something unusual happened on this particular throw. I don't see anything that unusual in the video, so I'll guess that there's something more going on here. We'll have to watch Catalanotto's rehab to get indications as far as what, if anything, that might be. It'll provide the best indication of what the timeframe for his return is.
  • While Vizz-Beane-i certainly didn't plan on Bobby Kielty reinjuring his leg, the eventual recall of Adam Melhuse did seem to be in the plans. Mike Piazza was there and available, but aside from fantasy players, no one really wants to see him catch these days. By sending down Melhuse, they were gambling that they wouldn't need him for a short stretch, a smart use of the roster spot. Kielty's calf strain is just the latest in a series of injuries to the A's outfield, and was major enough to DL him, but not significant enough to keep him out much longer than knee surgery did. I'd expect him back around the minimum, with the timeframe adjusted to the team's needs at that point as much as his health. The A's also announced that Rich Harden is at least a week away from throwing, pushing his timetable for return back yet again.

Quick Cuts: John Lackey took a liner off a foot, but stayed in the game. It's doubtful that he'll miss any time, but it's worth noting ... Anyone noticed that Brad Lidge is throwing well? ... Conor Jackson could have come back Tuesday, but with Tony Clark available, there's no need to rush him back from his cut ... Interesting analysis of tantalizing pitcher Daniel Cabrera ... In yesterday's Chelsea-Liverpool game, when Joe Cole left the game in overtime, they popped up a stat that said he'd run 11,735 meters. Anyone have any idea how they track that? ... Ryan Shealy heads to the DL with a strained hamstring. He's not expected to be sidelined for much beyond the minimum, but the Royals will use this period to take a look at Billy Butler ... Andy Marte had a setback with his rehab, feeling his hamstring get sore, according to Sheldon Ocker.

Hope to see many of you Thursday evening in Tampa Bay.

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