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July 3, 2007

Under The Knife

Collision Course

by Will Carroll

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Man, take one day off and half the league gets injured. Let's skip the intro for today and get right to it:

  • A.J. Burnett made one (poor) start with reduced velocity and headed not only to the DL, but down to Birmingham to see Dr. James Andrews. Beyond the normal concerns about a risky pitcher with recurrent shoulder problems, there are two issues here. First, why Birmingham? Because Burnett has a significant history with Andrews, having had his Tommy John surgery performed by him, so this might be something of a confidence-booster role by the good doctor. Right after Burnett came back from Tommy John surgery, and then again last season with his elbow issues, he went to Andrews, less for a physical examination and more for Andrews' word that he was okay. If this is nothing more than that, the Jays can breathe easy. If this is more along the lines of the beginnings of what Kerry Wood went through--and the timeline post-Tommy John surgery matches--the organization's collective breath will be held as the team contemplates having over a quarter of their payroll on the shelf, including two risky signings made in Dallas.
  • It wasn't just a setback over the weekend for Justin Duchscherer, it was the last one. Duchscherer has given up his comeback bid and opted for surgery on his chronically problematic hip. The degeneration in the hip simply caused too much pain for him to pitch, or rather to recover. The soreness he would feel in days after pitching made the act of pitching itself something of a moot point. Much like Jason Isringhausen, Duchscherer's hip condition is easily fixable in what will amount to a clean-up. Given that very good comp, there's no reason to believe that Duchscherer can't return for spring training next season with the same solid stuff he had in the last two seasons. There's no definitive word, though indications are that Duchscherer will make the Isringhausen comparison even more perfect by heading to Isringhausen's doctor, with whom he's already consulted during his rehab.
  • I was all set to talk about Chris Carpenter here, and how he did in his first rehab start. Then it rained, the simple rain that blankets Florida all summer, reminding people that down there, it's both the heat and the humidity. So now, Carpenter will start on tonight for Single-A Palm Beach. Having Carpenter even scheduled for a rehab start in the first week of July is well ahead of the Cardinals' plan, but not ahead of the timetable I anticipated given the injury. Carpenter's recovery is almost identical to Kelvim Escobar's recovery in 2005, which would put him back in the rotation sometime mid-month. For what hopes the team still has at making a run in the NL Central, this is a very good thing, but don't forget that Escobar had some mild setbacks, mostly related to stamina.
  • Ian Kinsler initially avoided the DL over the weekend with his sprained ankle making some progress. The problem is that on Monday, it wasn't the sprained ankle that put him on the DL, but instead a stress fracture in his foot. I'm a bit lost as to where this injury took place, since the sprain isn't said to have caused an avulsion, and avulsion fractures are different than stress fractures. I'm hoping to get more information on this later this week when I'm in Dallas, but for now, it's enough to know that Kinsler will miss six weeks while he recovers and that it could be a vastly different-looking clubhouse that he returns to at that point.
  • I'm not a fan of collisions at the plate, and less a fan of ones that hurt both players. Mike Napoli and Melvin Mora had the kind of collison that scares me a lot, a feet-first slide into a planted leg that ended up with both players hobbled. Mora came away limping and the Orioles had him x-rayed, but it appears that he got away lucky with only a bruised foot and a minor sprain. Still, the descriptions of his demeanor both after the game and Monday have him in considerable pain; that alone could keep him out a few days. Napoli, on the other hand, went on the DL with what was described as a severe high ankle sprain. For a catcher, this might be a season-ender, though it's too early to put anything more than a vague timeline on it. At least he held on to the ball, right?
  • The Phillies have a lot of pitching injuries, but there's actually some good news amongst the bad there. Both Brett Myers and Tom Gordon should be back in the coming weeks. Gordon is due to make a rehab start on Wednesday at High-A Clearwater. Yes, a start, but remember that this is just to make sure that Gordon gets in the work he's scheduled for. This isn't a situation like Myers', where he's actually on a starter's rehab program. Assuming a couple more rehab outings, Gordon should be back in the Phillies bullpen just after the All-Star break.

    Myers' situation is a bit more confusing after manager Charlie Manuel told the press that he expected him back around July 13th. Given the state of his work so far, there's no indication that he would be back soon, let alone on a given date. Manuel specifically stated that Myers would close, so stamina may not be the issue here. Given the very divergent rehab programs despite their similar injuries, there's still a lot of confusion, and with confusion comes risk.

    If anything, it's easier to guess at what's going on with another Phillies' pitcher. Freddy Garcia is beginning to throw, meaning he could be back, at best, sometime in August. It doesn't sound as if the Phillies are counting on even that.

  • The Mets pushed Oliver Perez to the DL despite insisting that he only had a minor lower back strain. Given his complex mechanics and the results of the work done with Rick Peterson, the Mets are merely trying to make sure that the injury didn't cause an alteration in his delivery that would lead to either a more serious injury or further bad habits. It's a smart, forward-looking move for a team that has some pitching depth. With Jason Vargas and Mike Pelfrey both in the rotation at this point, the starters in Queens might not be better, but they've certainly done what's been asked of them, which was to pitch deep and just well enough to hold leads while Omar Minaya and his staff try to find the guy who they hope to pair up with Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez in the playoff rotation. Having to go eight or nine deep as a rotation might not be ideal, but it's worked so far for the Mets.
  • I was e-mailing with Rick Wilton from Baseball HQ and Fantasy Hot Sheet about some things, and we ended up discussing Huston Street. Street's recovery is going well after a visit to Toronto (though with Duchscherer's setback, we're reminded that any rehab can quickly go from good to bad). I won't go into the details of what Dr. Anthony Galea's unconventional but comprehensive therapy entails, because that's a whole article in itself, but I mentioned to Rick that if it worked for Street, Galea would probably see more patients. I'm not usually psychic, so it surprised me that after seeing four top physicians, the Nats' John Patterson headed north to see Dr. Galea. One of the myths of his treatments is that it's not legal in the US. In fact, it's legal and available. Even Galea's use of prolotherapy isn't unheard of, just controversial. In fact, there are team physicians in baseball that have used or at least considered use of this technique with players today. Being a bit odd isn't bad, and Galea's stance outside the medical mainstream shouldn't be considered a positive or negative until we have a better understanding of how his techniques work, and the results they garner. Suffice to say that not only am I watching, but we're trying to get an interview with Dr. Galea on BP Radio.
  • Quick Cuts: Rich Harden might not pitch again until the weekend. That's a long time between appearances for a reliever, but remember, Harden isn't really a reliever. ... Garret Anderson was activated from the DL after just under a month there with a recurrent hip flexor strain. ... Jorge Sosa heads to the DL with a Grade II hamstring strain. That type of plant-leg injury usually means about a month for a pitcher. ... Scott Spiezio heads to the DL with an infected finger. ... As if the White Sox don't have enough issues, Scott Podsednik is back on the DL with what a source called "something on his side." The Sox are being deliberately vague, but the DL move is enough to tell us that we should treat it as if it's a recurrent oblique strain, and hope he comes back quickly. ... There's a lot of smoke regarding Zach Duke, his sore elbow, and the possibility of a UCL strain, but no fire yet. One source told me that Duke was overthrowing in his last outing. He's headed to Birmingham. ... I hope Kevin Goldstein doesn't mind me talking about a prospect down here in the Larry King section of my column, but shouldn't the Cubs call up Joel Santo, just to hear Ron Santo's reaction? ... Anyone that believes that Homer Bailey and his control problems are just the result of a mechanical flaw probably hasn't read this far down. They're not. Sell now.

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