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May 29, 2007

Under The Knife

Back Up to Speed

by Will Carroll

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There's a lot to catch up on with the long weekend, so I'll give you the old Joe Piscopo sports report. (Remember when he was funny?) Long weekend. Baseball. Great weather. Oaken Barrel. Pit stops. Helio wins. Jenn gives him a check. Jenn wants to drive. She's looking for a ride. (Make your own joke). Very hot. Bald guy. Sunburned dome. New shades. Funny tan line. Rain Sunday? Race starts. Race stops. Wait. Drink beer. Wait some more. Race re-starts. Dario! Ashley! Sleep. Back to baseball. Thanks again to my friends at Rally's/Checkers Hamburgers for a great weekend of fun and speed-the legal kind.

Powered by Luczo Dragon Racing, on to the injuries:

  • There were a couple things I noticed in the Zapruder-like film of Ryan Freel's collision yesterday. First, as he runs full speed towards Norris Hopper, neither appears to be calling for the ball. I haven't heard either blame anyone, and given where the ball ended up, I doubt either was sure enough to think they could catch it. From the multiple angles and the speed of Freel as he fell past Hopper, I don't believe it was that collision that injured him. Instead, it seems like that collision was enough to spin him and cause him to land awkwardly. In the video, his head and right shoulder clearly impact the warning track very hard, then he rolls over and is motionless. It's safe to say that he was unconscious there; most injured but conscious players will make some move to grab their head or to make some move like pushing up off the ground or kicking the turf. The other thing I noticed was how quickly trainer Mark Mann was out on the field, followed in very short order by Dr. Tim Kremchek. The quickness of those sequential responses are a reminder of the quality of care in the Reds organization. Having watched the Delphi Safety Team work this weekend at the track, I'm reminded that baseball often has the same kind of talent, and the Reds proved it on Monday. Freel was diagnosed with a contusion on the back of his head and shoulder, plus the concussion, though that hasn't been mentioned in the wire reports this morning. It's unclear how much time Freel will miss, though at this stage, his response post-concussion is the most limiting factor. He's lucky.
  • The injury to Freel might accelerate the timeframe on Josh Hamilton's return from the DL. Hamilton was scheduled to head out on a short rehab stint, and given his recent struggles at the plate, many thought that he'd take the normal Rule 5 route of 'hiding' on the DL and using the maximum available rehab time. Instead, he could be needed and brought back fast if Freel is forced to miss time; happily, Hamilton doesn't appear to have any lingering effect from the gastroenteritis that sidelined him. The Reds also think that Eddie Guardado is close enough to start his own rehab clock ticking. Pitchers have 30 days from their first rehab outing, which would put Guardado in the Reds bullpen no later that the end of June. That's a big positive for a struggling bullpen. They'll be watching to see if he still has closer's stuff coming back from his latest elbow issues.
  • Reader JP sent in this MLB.com article, asking what reason there would be for it being harder on Joe Mauer to DH than catch. Honestly, I have no idea. If Mauer can't stay loose sitting on the bench, I'm sure there's a stationary bike or some similar way for him to stay loose available. We see this type of thing more often in football or soccer, but there's no reason it can't work for someone like Mauer. I think what this is actually more about is Mauer's comfort level, and while comfort comes with familiarity, I'm not sure that the Twins are accurately assessing the increased risk. This downgrades Mauer slightly from a fantasy perspective, though it will be nearly impossible for Mauer's owner to get fair value for him at this stage, so like me, you'll probably just have to hold on and hope he can put up his normal big numbers while avoiding another leg injury the rest of the season. His return is now scheduled for Friday after another delay, but as before, the actual date of his return is still fluid.
  • Freel wasn't the only concussion issue of the weekend. The Cardinals are very sensitive to the problem of post-concussive syndrome after dealing with Jim Edmonds last season and seeing former Cardinal Mike Matheny have his career ended by the lingering effects of his own concussion. Scott Rolen was injured in a collision with Dmitri Young, and felt some of the symptoms after the game. It was an unfortunate choice of words by Tony La Russa when he said Rolen was "able to drive home" after the game, but no one expects Rolen to miss much time. The problem is that symptoms aren't predictable with this type of injury. Some people will have them, some won't, and even those that do might have an extended period where they don't show problems (as was the case with Edmonds). This situation is one that definitely bears watching.
  • Pitching analyst Carlos Gomez got the spotlight treatment from Carlos Zambrano this weekend. Yeah, I know how that feels. Zambrano insists he's not hurt, and that his lower arm slot is not an indication of injury. While I'll agree that the slot appears to be lower and that his velocity is down (both big signs of some shoulder problem), I'm not ready to say that we have enough evidence to make any sort of diagnosis or even solid analysis. I spoke with Dr. Glenn Fleisig of ASMI, the leading biomechanist in the baseball world, about the situation and he agreed. "What we see is a combination of two things-shoulder abduction and trunk tilt to the glove side. It might look like a lower arm slot, but it could be a couple things. Is his trunk in the same position? Has his deltoid fatigued?" Fleisig's research has shown that by dropping the elbow below the shoulder, it not only misaligns the shoulder, creating an increased risk of bursitis, labrum damage, and rotator cuff tears, it actually increases the varus torque on the elbow. Gomez's video, especially in section two, appears to show that Zambrano is leaning more to the ballside, which Gomez notes. Flesig made a point of noting that "pitchers aren't robots. The arm slot is going to be very individual because there's no one right slot for everyone." Zambrano is clearly not getting the results this season, despite his correct assertion that he has more wins. I'm not going to try and explain again why wins tell us nothing about Zambrano, but I'm watching his motion, as I'm sure Mr. Gomez will be as well.
  • The Yankees are looking to correct two injury problems with one move this week. Jason Giambi is probably going to take a couple days off, perhaps getting a cortisone injection in his heel, while Johnny Damon rests his problematic calves by slotting in at Giambi's normal DH role. The turf in Toronto is a major factor in these moves, as the Yankees try to limit their aching veterans' exposure to the hard turf. (Having both the Jays and the Rays in the division slightly increases the injury risk for the other three AL East teams.) Neither Giambi or Damon figures to be in danger of a DL stint, though the on- and off-field problems being experienced by Giambi make it much more likely for him, especially if the heel problem continues to worsen.
  • The A's are still waiting to get a lot of pitchers back. Huston Street is still not throwing, as reported by the Contra Costa Times' Joe Stiglich. Given what we know about his problem and the current comeback of Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson, we're still at least a month away, putting this more towards the two months that I expected than the short-duration DL stint that was initially reported. Watch for Street to begin a throwing program and then take it out about a month to get an estimate of a return date. The positive is that most pitchers come back well and without many setbacks once the nerve has calmed down. Justin Duchscherer threw a nice inning of work at Single-A and is expected back on Wednesday, assuming that his recovery goes as expected. The news isn't as positive on Esteban Loaiza-he'll have his knee 'scoped after feeling it altering his mechanics in a rehab start at Triple-A. The surgery is minor and he should be back on a mound in about four weeks, meaning he could be back in an A's uniform after the ASB. The A's also have Mark Kotsay due to return later this week. He's shown no problems with his back post-surgery and should be less risky now that his chronic back problem has been corrected.
  • According to reports, Shawn Green had an MRI on yesterday, and a decision on his status will be made today. He's been diagnosed with a fractured metatarsal bone (and no, I don't know which one. It's been fun watching far too many places echoing the poorly-worded AP report that listed the metatarsal as a singular bone), and it could be stable enough to allow him to return. Given injuries to Carlos Gomez, Moises Alou, and Lastings Milledge, the Mets have their reasons to give Green every chance to avoid the DL, although Green was in pain afterwards, reporting that he awoke in the night. Given that report, it's unlikely that Green will be able to play in the near term, though the results of the MRI, and the Mets' medical staff's ability to manage and control both the pain and the risk of exacerbating the injury, will determine just how long he will be out.
  • Ray Durham is no stranger to the Giants' training room. He's been a mass of muscle strains since coming over to the Bay Area, yet he's also been very productive when on the field. Actually, he's missed less time than I would have guessed initially, a comment on the abilities of the Giants' medical staff, though the nature of his problems allow the team to anticipate and try to proactively keep Durham healthy. "The devil you know" is a positive in baseball, at least from a conditioning standpoint. His latest malady is a mild to medium strain of his abdominal muscle, and despite its being a relatively minor injury, his history might nevertheless push him to the DL. The team would rather be cautious with the existing strain than cause a bigger cascade injury that would be more difficult for him to come back from. A decision will be made in the next 48 hours on the roster move.
  • I'll keep speaking about things like D3O and Ribcap until someone does something about pitchers being hit with batted balls. I had a parent email me over the weekend after his son had his fibula fractured by a comebacker. Both Tom Gorzelanny and Brandon Webb avoided major injuries when they were hit by comebackers and will make their next starts, though I'm going to watch Gorzelanny for any sign that the thumb is bothering him early in his start. Both were lucky, but the next one might not be.

Quick Cuts: If you missed the latest Mechanics of Baseball video on MLB.com, here's the link. ... Ben Sheets should make his start Tuesday after a positive weekend bullpen session. ... Don't mistake the start of a throwing program with an imminent return for Tom Gordon. There's some speculation that his season may be done. ... Speaking of the Phillies, the more I watch Brett Myers' final pitch, the more it reminds me of Chris Carpenter and Brad Penny back in 2004. Oddly, that's something of a positive comp. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka apologized to his teammates and fans for pitching poorly despite his dry-heaving on the mound. I'm not one for the macho culture, but that's impressive on a lot of levels. ... Looks like the Cubs' experiment with Wade Miller is nearing its end. ... Jake Westbrook should start a rehab assignment soon, meaning he should be back in a couple of weeks. ... Joakim Soria is headed for an MRI, and while the Royals are indicating that it's precautionary, there's definitely some concern that his shoulder has some structural problems. ... Brandon McCarthy will miss his scheduled Wednesday start with a blister. The Rangers hope this start is all he'll miss, and that he starts missing some bats soon. ... The Rangers will get Kevin Millwood back to help their struggling rotation on Friday.

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