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May 13, 2007

Under The Knife

Halladay Injuries

by Will Carroll

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It seems like the injuries never stop coming. While it's too early to get any real take on whether the numbers are actually up, what I have noticed is that bigger names are getting injured, which affects the perception that injuries are up. I've also noticed that people are paying more attention. When I started doing Under the Knife, I wasn't sure that anyone would read about injuries, and I didn't expect a subset of baseball fans would want not just injury analysis, but injury predictions. When I started talking about the causes behind pitching arm injuries, I never thought I would read a mainstream article about Mike Marshall or be able to describe a simplified biomechanical breakdown on a broadcast.

I certainly never thought an arch-conservative like George Will would ever call anything I did an indispensable guide (even when the material he quotes came from Dr. William Carroll and BP's own Jay Jaffe). It just goes to show you that being surprised by baseball should never really surprise you. Whether it's the game showing me something new, a new number or tool (like Clay Davenport's brilliant use of Monte Carlo simulations), or just a reader dropping a new piece of knowledge, the best thing about what I do is being able to share everything I learn.

Powered by my mother and by all the mothers out there, on to the injuries:

  • Here's the part that bothers me. I've been watching Roy Halladay struggle his last two starts and had a former Jays staffer tell me that he used to drop down - before they rebuilt his motion years back. So when it was announced that Halladay would miss four weeks after having an emergency appendectomy, my first response was, "That's convenient." That's the wrong thought. No one fakes an appendectomy and Halladay doesn't deserve to be doubted. The Jays, on the other hand, do. Leaving that aside, Halladay's appendectomy will cost him about a month. We've had several pitchers, including Curt Schilling, come back quickly and without incident after laproscopic appendectomies. There's no reason to think that Halladay will be any different and who knows, while recovering from surgery isn't "rest" as purely defined, maybe a couple weeks off will help what's been ailing Halladay.
  • It's more than just the pitching staff ailing in Toronto. Troy Glaus left Friday's game after hobbling down the line. His heel spur has become so painful that there's an open question about whether, with all the other problems, this is the best time to go ahead and take care of it. He'll have an MRI this weekend after which they'll determine what the best course is. There's still some question about whether Glaus will need surgery or can simply recover through rest and treatment. There's been some discussion of whether Glaus would be able to play as DH if it weren't for the presence of the better hitting Frank Thomas. Given that Glaus can't make it from the batter's box to first without significant pain, he's close to Thomas circa 2004.
  • Ken Rosenthal was on site scooping me--he had what started to come out Saturday afternoon. Ryan Howard is headed for the DL. There's still some internal debate, most of it centered on Howard's current unhappiness with his contract and situation with the Phillies. Howard is continuing to have problems with his quad, which in turn is causing some changes in his swing, according to observers. I'll admit that I don't see the changes--Howard seems to be generating good bat speed. Still, as we've seen with Glaus now, Thomas in the past, and other sluggers through the ages, teams cannot take chances on injuries to the base of their best hitters. A move to the DL would be a retro move back to his last appearance, shortening it some and making May 25th his first possible return date. Chris Coste, last year's feel-good story, was called up as the replacement.
  • The Braves are going to give Chipper Jones a couple days off to see if his thumbs will heal up. The thumbs - yes, both of them - came out the worst after a Friday collision with Jose Bautista. Jones tried to catch himself as he landed after the collision upended him. Jones had already been dealing with a wrist problem in addition to his leg, ankle and foot concerns, so while the thumbs get the blame, really Jones is just trying to recover in a very general sense. While he gets to write his name in, Jones is likely to miss a couple days and get banned from trying to leap over guys on the basepaths again.
  • Who said the Twins aren't getting any breaks? Justin Morneau got one -- right in the nose. A bad hop, some blocked vision, and Morneau's face all lined up at precisely the wrong time and Morneau came out a little less pretty. Morneau's broken nose was re-set in the clubhouse and he's not expected to miss much time, if any. The only concern is swelling that could affect his vision in the short term and, of course, discomfort. Morneau won't be wearing a Rip Hamilton style mask at the plate either, so there shouldn't be any real effect on his game -- at least the one on the field.
  • The Nationals continue to slide as injuries take a bite out of the talent they have, though it's interesting to do some rough replacement calculations on the roster. There's not much separation between the starters and the replacements, and even less as you move down the minors. Where they have had some measure of surprise is with Shawn Hill. The oft-injured pitcher has been far and away their most effective starter, throwing five innings of no-hit ball in his last start before doing his Phil Hughes imitation. Hill left after pain in his elbow, something he said afterwards that he'd been experiencing over the last two starts. He'll have an MRI on Monday on his pitching elbow, and at just two years post-TJ, there's concern that this could be significant. Hill is almost assuredly heading to the DL, so plan accordingly. The Nats will scramble for a starter, though sources tell me it will not be Collin Ballester.
  • Via the good folks at Bless You Boys, we find out that Joel Zumaya has an injury known in football as "jersey finger." Why hadn't I mentioned this? Simple. While the injury itself is the same, both the mechanism of injury (how it happens) and the function of the finger (throwing vs. grabbing) are so different as to make any comparison poor at best. Yes, the fix is relatively easy and yes, Zumaya's prognosis is much more positive than when we first learned of his injury, but no, I'm not ready to say that he will be back as he was before until we see him throw, which won't happen for a couple months.

Quick Cuts: Jim Thome could come off the DL this week, but won't. With interleague play starting on the north side, Thome will take another couple days off before starting a rehab assignment, giving the Sox some roster relief and making sure the back injury doesn't recur. It's a smart move on both counts ... Jeff Weaver heads to the DL with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder and sucksitis everywhere else ... Add a strained quad onto the list of ailments Moises Alou is dealing with. The quad strain might be the tipping point for him to have his knee scoped ... Kenny Rogers is making solid progress and could be on a mound sometime later this month. Getting back in the rotation in mid- to late June would be slightly ahead of schedule ... Mike Timlin looks to be heading to the DL with a recurrence of the shoulder tendinitis that plagued his spring ... Howie Kendrick could start a rehab assignment late this week. Watch his bat control.

Related Content:  The Week In Quotes,  Quad-a

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