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July 12, 2007

Under The Knife

Back In Action

by Will Carroll

The second half is here. By the time you read this, some teams will be on the field and most of them think the second half won't be the end. We've seen enough injuries to keep me in business. We're hard at work behind the scenes to put together a first-half review, but there's a ton of data to get through. Here's one thing you'll want to know. In terms of player days lost to injury, injuries are up nine percent this season, year-over-year. That's not good, but if you look back to 2005, the increase is only two percent. What we don't know is how much variance is natural. Going back through the limited data available, it looks to be a choppy run that is largely determined by early-season injuries. Why early in the season? When someone goes down in spring training with a season-ender, his DL days are locked in-they're unpreventable. You'll occasionally see someone hit the list like Mike Hampton or Kris Benson, racking up the days and lost dollars in situations where it's almost impossible to say that even the best medical staff could have kept them functional. Internally, teams use a better measure to track players called the "Able/Not Able" report. It's pretty straightforward, and in its simplicity, it's flat-out better. Naturally, teams don't publish or even share this information, leaving people like me to collect of available data myself, but I can dream about the day when the able/not able report will be collected internally like the Gameday data.

Powered by Diet Pepsi Max, my new addiction, on to the injuries:

  • If you're having deja vu, Boston fans, I understand. At about this time last year, we were having discussions about whether Manny Ramirez could make it through the season due to knee problems. Ramirez actually did make it through 2006 despite tendonitis and a meniscal tear, so there's more than just hope that David Ortiz can do likewise. Ortiz had an MRI, and unless there's a tear well beyond what they expect to find, he'll be given a couple of weeks to see if he can make it through with treatment and maintenance. He'll have time to get back even if he waits; a simple mensicectomy has a four-week schedule for recovery, even for someone that stresses his knees like Ortiz does. If he does have the surgery, there's a collateral positive-Ramirez would be able to shift to DH occasionally, helping his still-problematic knees. Overall, the ten-game lead gives them plenty of leeway to make the right decision, and not just the expedient one.
  • The Mets made a bold move by bringing in Rickey Henderson as their hitting coach, but it's their health that will be one of the major factors in trying to stay on top of the competitive NL East. The Pedro Martinez watch is getting intense as the Mets begin to plan for his return. Martinez will pitch a simulated game early next week, likely on Tuesday, and then head to Port St. Lucie to begin his rehab assignment. The expected progression across four rehab starts will be short-short-medium-long, where 'short' will be 2-3 innings, 'medium' will be 4-5, and the final long outing will be in the 70-80 pitch range. If Martinez gets through those, he'd be back in Mets blue for the early part of August. Just as important, the Mets will get a couple of looks at him to gauge if he's going to be what they need, or if Omar Minaya will need to hit the trade market. The pitching should be shored up a bit once Oliver Perez returns. Perez went almost 50 pitches in a Single-A rehab start with no problems and good control, putting him on schedule for a Sunday return. Moises Alou is also in Port St. Lucie, and figures to start his own rehab this week.
  • Philip Hughes threw a couple of innings in Single-A Tampa on Monday without any problems, putting him on schedule for a slightly longer outing at Double-A on Friday. Hughes is coming back from both the hamstring strain he suffered against the Rangers in his near no-hitter, and from a severe ankle sprain suffered in rehab. He showed no problem with either injury on Monday, and appeared to have his normal motion and stuff according to several reports and obsevers. Hughes should have no more than two outings (including the Friday one in Trenton) before being ready. The biggest question is his stamina, but the Yankees will be watching him closely, and figure to shadow him in his first start due to pitch limits. Another Yankee on the comeback trail is Jeff Karstens; he went three innings for the Staten Island Yankees, showing no lingering effects from his broken leg suffered back in late April. He's building up stamina, though he's expected to wind up in the Yankees bullpen rather than the rotation.
  • Mark Teixeira isn't going to get much time on his rehab assignment to work out the kinks. He'll have one day at Double-A Frisco before re-joining the Rangers on the road in Anaheim. I can't tell from the box score whether Teixeria faced Brad Lidge (who'll rejoin the Astros on Friday after one inning of work), but he did go 0 for 2 with two walks. Unfortunately, my normal Dallas source was not at the suburban game and neither Jamey Newberg nor Adam Morris have anything up, so I don't have a report on how either looked, but we'll know soon enough on the big stage. The Rangers don't expect any problems or recurrences as Teixeira goes from the DL straight into the rumor market.
  • Is it one and done for Rich Harden? After his first start since coming off of the DL, Rich Harden complained of "not feeling right," and certainly didn't look right either. Harden is expected to be back on the DL Thursday with what the A's are calling an irritated shoulder capsule. I say "calling it" because the A's don't know the full extent of the problem, and according to several sources are as frustrated as Harden is at the inability to get a solid answer. Yes, this is beginning to recall the Mark Prior situation, minus the protestations that he's fine. The A's sent Harden back to Dr. Lewis Yocum, who found no new structural damage; the pitcher is expected to re-start the process of rest, treatment, and rehab in hopes that he can return sometime in August. Then again, maybe they'll follow Huston Street's example and send Harden to Dr. Anthony Galea. Street continues to make progress since coming back from Toronto, and looks to get uncorked soon. He threw thirty pitches from the top of the mound last weekend, and is on track to get activated next week.
  • Randy Wolf has the weight of the Dodgers on his left shoulder. Luckily, that shoulder responded well to a cortisone injection. Wolf reports that the spike removed most of the pain-most, not all, which is a key takeaway. Wolf should be back for his next start, and he may well look good, but over the longer term, the quick fix and incomplete cure has to worry the Dodgers. Don't be surprised if he needs another cortisone shot before the season ends.
  • The White Sox have Mark Buehrle locked up for the next few years, so now they can start worrying about Jon Garland. Garland has been dealing with what he calls a knot in his pitching shoulder. He's had the issue since the spring, but until his last outing, Garland's biggest complaint was that it took him longer to warm up. In his last outing, the knot became painful and clearly affected both his mechanics and his results. When a pitcher says that he's "going to have to learn to "live with it or I'm done," you can take that as a negative, but count me in the camp that thinks that Herm Schneider's staff will figure something out. It's a chance to steal Garland if someone in your fantasy league isn't paying attention.
  • A baseball source called me to ask about his fantasy team and mentioned B.J. Upton. He joked whether B.J. would be back with the Rays before his brother got called up to the D'backs. While the joke says more about how quickly Justin Upton is going to be up and what a show he put on in San Francisco, the answer is that B.J. will be back first-tonight, in fact. It's been a slow, complicated trip back from a quad strain, and the latest twist is that he'll be headed to center field in his first start in a month. Upton still has some recurrence risk, and the positional change might have something to do with this. Center field is a position where running is important, but quickness and stopping aren't as taxing out there as they are in the infield.
  • Rondell White had yet another setback, but this one is worse than the others. One source told me that White is being faced with the possibility that he simply cannot come back, a possibility White is resisting. Over and over, he has come back from injuries over his career, but age and the toll of those injuries is weighing heavy now. The Twins may make the call to place White on the 60-day DL rather than releasing him, a move designed to ease him out gracefully. The Twins have one of the more unknown stories in baseball as well. I was digging through the sortable stats-and for those of you checking us out on free week, you can do the same-in prep for a radio gig, and noticed a name in the Pitchers' overall VORP list I did not recognize. Matt Guerrier is currently the 29th-best pitcher in the game. Given his role and the expectations going into the season, this has to be one of the bigger surprises around. The only relievers close are Hideki Okajima and J.J. Putz, and those two just got a trip to the All-Star Game.
  • Quick Cuts: Cliff Floyd spent his break getting cortisone shots in his elbow and shoulder. The team is counting on this to help him hit. ... Matt Garza's not happy about being in Rochester. Reports have his mouth more active and colorful than his arm has been, though his curve has been described as "unhittable" and "embarrassing." ... Albert Pujols thinks that Chris Carpenter will make his next start for the big league club. The Cardinals haven't made any confirmation of that. ... Reports out of Milwaukee have Doug Melvin given a green light to make deals, even ones that take on significant salary.

    Related Content:  Back,  Newberg Report,  The Call-up,  Quad-a

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