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July 26, 2007

Under The Knife

Deadline Puzzle

by Will Carroll

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Somewhere in the haze of eighteen-hour days and double-charges on the phone, my brain began to re-enact the Phaedo, wondering if I was chasing the cause, or merely attempting to assign meaning to random events. The trade deadline works like any puzzle; you have the pieces and they fit together. The thing is, you also have pieces that don't belong in the puzzle, and no box top from which to work. I'll never have the complete picture, but I'm starting to see patterns, getting a couple edges, maybe a corner, but only in retrospect will we all see what fits where.

Even then, I'll never know all of the hundreds of conversations that happened between this GM and that GM, this scout and that scout, that agent and the guy who knows a guy who carpools with the clubbie. I've learned quickly that it's okay to be wrong as long as you learn something.

Powered by South Alabama's new Head Athletic Trainer Jinni Frisbey--yes, I still look back at my time there fondly--on to the injuries:

  • There's an easy joke any time you get Bartolo Colon in the same sentence with "posterior," but no one in Anaheim is laughing about Colon's latest injury. Colon has a posterior impingement in his pitching elbow, a term you're probably not familiar with. Posterior olecranon impingement is normally an injury caused by hyperextension trauma, where there is now pain, swelling, and what's called "pseudo-locking" in the elbow joint. Pseudo-locking means that the elbow feels like it's locking before it's actually at full extension, reducing the range of motion. The solution is almost always surgical, usually a scoping of the elbow to remove bone chips and/or spurs, arthritic changes, and--you'll love this--fat pad hypertrophy. While Colon should be able to come back, it's unlikely that he'll be able to do so this year. While the injury does sometimes respond to non-surgical treatment, it almost always recurs. It appears that Colon's elbow was compromised by altered mechanics after his return from his shoulder injury. Even though he came back more quickly than other pitchers with similar injuries, Colon had a price to pay that's now been posted.
  • Chris Young came out of his last start with what's being described as a very mild oblique strain. Young was smart enough to alert the training staff, and they got him out of there before more serious damage was done. While most oblique strains linger, the sheer number of them that we're seeing has given enough of a sample to learn that if caught early enough, it's an injury that can be controlled and minimized. Young hasn't been ruled out for his scheduled Sunday start yet, though it seems likely that he'll miss that game to hold open the possibility of a retro move. Expect to see Young work on the side before the weekend, with an official decision coming only after that. The most likely scenario for now is that Young misses just the one start, but the DL is a possibility.
  • The Mets really didn't need another injury to another outfielder, but that's what they have. Carlos Beltran strained an abdominal during batting practice, and was out of the lineup on Wednesday. There's been no official word on how long he'll be out, but our friends over at Metsblog nailed this one--this is precisely the type of injury that lingers and saps a player like Beltran of his "Beltran-ness."

    The Mets are also quietly admitting that Pedro Martinez is not fully healthy. While he's able to throw, the recovery from those sessions is taking longer than expected, necessitating longer-than-normal rest. The Mets should be creative enough to find ways to use Martinez, perhaps even the old "Sunday starter" schedule, but word is that they don't have the confidence in Pedro's being able to go long enough to help them protect their bullpen from overwork. Martinez has one more simulated game before an expected rehab assignment, but don't pay as much attention to the games he'll throw--watch for how he feels subsequently.

  • Here's one I didn't expect--Jason Giambi will start a rehab assignment on Friday with High-A Tampa down in the Florida State League. Giambi progressed quickly once he got out of his boot, and he's had no recurrence of the problems he was having due to plantar fasciitis. He's also had no problems hitting or, more importantly, running. Sources that have seen his workouts say that he's not showing any loss of power, and that while his surprising recovery hasn't returned him to his MVP form, he does look like the Giambi we saw earlier this season. If Giambi's on your waiver wire, he's worth thinking about again.
  • Ryan Braun didn't start for the Brewers Wednesday, but did pinch-hit. Even in that appearance, he seemed a bit slow, striking out looking on a David Weathers pitch in a tight situation. Braun's power could be affected as he deals with the rib muscle, and from what you can tell from that one at-bat, he's protecting it a bit. Being in a close division race is going to make it tougher and tougher for the Brewers (or any contender) to find periods to rest players, but it's one of the most important tasks a manager has at this stage of the season. We may more often think of it where pitchers are concerned, but managing fatigue across the entire team is a task every manager has to do, and do well. There's long been speculation that the Brewers' rival, the Cubs, have a disadvantage in this regard due to day games, though I've never seen a study that proves it.
  • This might be one of the more embarrassing injuries I've seen, but Derek Lowe left Wednesday's game after straining his groin on an unusual play at first base, where he was thrown out 9-3. Worse still, it wasn't that play that injured him; instead, Lowe told MLB.com that he injured the groin during his between-starts relief appearance. Lowe will have an MRI to determine how bad the damage is, but this looks like he's headed for the DL. If there's any consolation here, it's that it's his left groin, not the right, or the one that is a bit less stressed in his delivery. With Randy Wolf not back yet, there's going to be even more pressure on Ned Colletti in the next week.
  • Miguel Tejada had his first rehab start and went 0-for-3. Is that more important than his statements afterward, where he said that he felt good with no pain or soreness in the wrist? The answer seems to be in how he went 0 for 3 more than his lack of hits. Jeff Seidel fills in the details, with Tejada popping out and grounding out twice. That's three at-bats and three contacts, so he's not flailing up there, but he's also not showing any ability to drive the ball yet. That's to be expected at this stage-a reduction in power over the short term will be the most notable issue, but I imagine we'll see reductions in almost every element of his production for the first few weeks. Tejada will move up to Single-A for another game on Thursday, and is expected to be activated for the weekend series with the Yankees.
  • Randy Johnson made it through a short simulated game, then told the media he might never return. Johnson is always the black cloud type. Maybe he had Morrissey on his iPod or something, because his post-workout doom and gloom doesn't match up with what my sources told me; they said that his throwing looked good, free and easy, and that while he was a bit hesitant to really let loose due to the back, all he seemed to lack was confidence and stamina. Johnson's scheduled to have one more sim game before trying to figure out what comes next. His status probably precludes a rehab start, meaning there's a chance--especially if the D'backs trade a pitcher--that Johnson will come back as something of a tandem starter.
  • Tom Gorzelanny told one of my sources that he's not hurt, just sore. He did admit that he's had trouble getting loose in his last couple of starts. For the first-year starter, this shouldn't be a complete surprise--he's already closing in on last year's innings total, but his 2006 was split between Triple-A and the majors. Several Pirates pitchers have complained about their lack of run support and defense, so it's quite possible that they've had to expend more effort trying to do everything themselves. Add that to Gorzelanny's history of elbow problems late in the seasons in which he's played, and this looks like a case of wearing down more than any traumatic or chronic injury. The question for the Pirates is whether they decide that it's better to rest him now, or to see how he fights through the fatigue. His innings will need to be limited somehow, and with several decent alternatives at Triple-A, this shouldn't be too tough for the Bucs to sort out.
  • Chris Ray was placed on the DL after an MRI showed a bone spur in his pitching elbow. The team will take a conservative tack initially, seeing if rest, medication, and treatment help the problem. They know that the spur will need to be removed, but they're going to make an effort to see if that can be delayed until the off-season. Bone chips and spurs aren't a long-term problem, though as we've seen with players like A.J. Burnett and Chris Carpenter, they can hide other problems. Ray's going to be a big question mark through this season, and that assumes he comes back at all. However, once the problem is corrected, I think he'll be able to close again without much consequence.
  • Kosuke Fukudome was placed on the DL with an elbow injury. Why does this affect you? Because several teams are excited by the possibility of signing Fukudome this offseason. He's a free agent and won't need to be posted, but only if he gets back on the field quickly. Japanese service time does not include days on the DL, so the month of service time that Fukudome needs to get over the threshold for free agency could be affected. From reports, he should make it back in plenty of time, though Japanese injury reports are about as inscrutable as their game shows. What I do know for certain is that if he does end up in America next season, no matter what team gets him, I will order a jersey.
  • Quick Cuts: I'll admit that I'm confused by some of the statements made by Dr. George Paletta in this article. More on this soon. ... Mark Mulder could be on a rehab assignment by this time next week. He's got a couple throwing sessions to get through, but things look good. ... Brett Myers is expected back with the Phillies this weekend after completing his rehab assignment. ... Gotta dig Rotowire's new look. ... Kerry Wood will be tested with back-to-back days of throwing on Thursday and Friday. His rapid comeback has given the Cubs a nice surprise, as they appear to be as stunned as everyone else by the turnaround. ... Juan Castro will need Tommy John surgery, ending the season for the Reds' utility infielder. ... David Ross dislocated his pinky sliding last night, and will miss some time for the Reds. How much will depend on his pain tolerance. ... Hong-Chih Kuo had his elbow 'scoped to remove more chips. He's just not able to hold up under any significant workload.

    Related Content:  Back,  Elbow,  Year Of The Injury

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