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May 17, 2007

Under The Knife

Blisters, Breakdowns, and Bounce-backs

by Will Carroll

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No time for an intro today-there's too much happening at BP Radio where we have both a great show coming this weekend about improvement, and some interviews you'll hear before the weekend-so, powered by Pete's Rally Cap Ale, on to the injuries:

  • Mets fans everywhere panicked when Jose Reyes left Wednesday's rain-soaked affair with a hamstring problem. Said to be a matter of cramping rather than a strain, this is the first hamstring problem he's had in a while. Cramp or strain, it's certain to have some negative effect on his ability to steal bases, and perhaps also on his range. However, every source I spoke to on this minimized the injury, saying that the score and weather conditions made it a no-brainer to get him out of the game, and thereby try to make sure that this cramping doesn't end up like what happened with Johnny Damon or Alfonso Soriano. On the subject of Reyes' hamstrings, I'm hoping to get Vern Gambetta, one of the men credited with helping Reyes get past his hamstring problems, on BP Radio soon to discuss the mechanics of running.
  • Maybe it's just me, but UTK recently feels like the A's Report. At least there's some good news in today's edition. A's fan were abuzz with rumors of Huston Street's visit to Dr. Lewis Yocum down at Kerlan-Jobe and the likelihood of that meaning he was headed for Tommy John surgery. Instead, reports are that Yocum merely confirmed the diagnosis of ulnar neuritis. It's not exactly good news, I guess, but is at least there's no further bad news. This also isn't any reflection on the A's medical staff; second opinions are standard at this point in baseball history no matter the organization. The team is hoping to get Justin Duchscherer back by the weekend. In his absence, the bullpen sans Street has been abysmal. They might be a bit more aggressive getting "Duke" back from his hip condition due to Street's injury, but this is a case of asking him to pitch through something rather than asking him to do something at less than full effectiveness. In other news, there has been a setback for Esteban Loaiza, who will need an MRI on his knee. That soreness has held back his return from neck and shoulder problems. Finally, Bobby Kielty was transferred to the 60-day DL, a move that surprised me given the initial reported severity of his latest injury. I'll be following up on this one to find out if this was more serious than initially noted, whether there was a setback, or if it was a roster-forced move.
  • While Adam LaRoche hasn't made his end of the trade look very good, an injury to the shoulder of Mike Gonzalez wouldn't make the Braves end look much better. While initial reports of Gonzalez's injury focused on his recent loss of velocity, the team announced that it was a muscular problem near his elbow that pushed him to the DL. Reports out of Atlanta have Gonzalez experiencing spasms in his pitching arm well after he left the game, which doesn't explain why he was pulled early, nor does it explain his noticeable loss of velocity. Gonzalez ended last season on the DL, missing the last month of his Pirates career with tendonitis in his pitching elbow. One thing to remember is that many of his elbow problems in Pittsburgh were a cascade result of a chronic knee problem he'd pitched through in 2005.
  • Josh Beckett and Jeremy Bonderman will both miss their next start with similar problems. Beckett has had this before, though Bonderman has never before missed starts in the majors because of the problem. (I couldn't confirm one reader's note that Bonderman had this come up in high school.) Bonderman was pushed to the DL as a precaution; the Tigers think taking the time off will let the finger heal completely, and keep this from becoming a maintenance issue. In addition, the enforced rest will help hold down his innings, something the Tigers have been smart about with both Bonderman and Verlander. Beckett is going to miss his Friday start, replaced by Kason Gabbard, instead throwing on the side. The Sox aren't moving Beckett to the DL yet, although a retro move is still possible if needed; he could return as early as Monday, though that's unlikely. Neither team feels the injury to their pitcher is a chronic problem. If they're correct, that's a big positive.
  • Devastatingly bad news in Minnesota, as a key cog in their bullpen, Jesse Crain, has been diagnosed with both a torn cuff and a torn labrum. There's probably not that many similarities between Crain and Kerry Wood, but their shoulders have similar problems. It shows us once again that despite a smaller perceived workload, relievers can actually have as much stress due to their usage patterns, mechanics, and most importantly, fatigue. Fatigue is the thing we're actually looking to measure in pitchers' workloads, with pitch counts, inning limits, and even PAP just representing proxies. Crain will have a second opinion, but surgery appears inevitable at this stage.
  • Jason Schmidt not only threw from a mound this week, he came away the following day without any soreness or swelling beyond the 'normal.' If you need more good news, he showed off all his pitches during the 50-pitch set. While he didn't have his full velocity and ran out of steam quickly, it was definitely a major positive. While reports have Grady Little impressed with what he saw, Schmidt remains at least a couple weeks away, though his progress has been non-standard all along. There's almost certain to be at least one rehab start somewhere before his return to the Dodger rotation, though the timing and location is unknown at this point. As negative as reports out of Dodgertown were when Schmidt was initially injured, the progress he's made is extremely encouraging.
  • There's some controversy about Adam Wainwright. Tony La Russa says it's an effectiveness issue, while Adam Wainwright is saying that he's finally pitching without soreness. In any case, Wainwright appeared to have both his mechanics and his velocity back in his last start, if not the devastating curve that he had last year. If you're wondering if this is related to his moving back to starting after working as a reliever last season, that's a possibility. Although Wainwright looked better last time out, we'll have to watch his next few starts to make sure this pattern holds, because Wainwright had significant arm and mechanics issues in the minors.

Quick Cuts: Smart move by the Blue Jays to lock up their training staff. Despite their challenges this year, their year-over-year stats support a decision to keep them. ... I mentioned yesterday that a source said that Larry Rothschild, the Cubs pitching coach, was in jeopardy. A better source emphatically denies this. ... Chipper Jones was back in the lineup for the Braves despite soreness in both his wrists and quad. The guy just doesn't know how to rest. ... Russ Ortiz will have his first rehab start Thursday. He'll be limited to 70 pitches; meanwhile, Tim Lincecum will be facing the Astros. ... Chad Tracy heads to the DL with an oblique strain. The D'backs had held off on this move for as long as possible, but he wasn't making progress. The team is likely to bring up Mark Reynolds from Double-A Mobile as a short-term fill-in. ... The Rangers brought up Kevin Mahar rather than Marlon Byrd due to a Byrd's minor hamstring problem. Bad timing.

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