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April 3, 2008

Under The Knife

Word Games

by Will Carroll

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J.J. Putz (20 DXL)
It was, in Putz's own words, "the best of the bad news." Costochondritis sounds much worse than it is-it's inflammation of the connection between the ribs and the intracostal muscles. Better still, according to the Mariners' own release the case Putz was diagnosed with was "mild." That doesn't exactly mesh up with the "ice pick" feeling Putz described just before he gave up a Josh Hamilton bomb, so it will be interesting to follow this. If it is just a mild case of costochondritis, Putz should miss just over the minimum; my 20-day estimate is conservative, with some safety built in to prevent any sort of recurrence. We should be able to see Putz throwing again relatively quickly, allowing a better gauge in roughly a week for the Mariners to target a return date. One of the most interesting parts of the story is that while everyone was trying to figure out who would replace Putz in the interim, John McLaren zagged on us, using Miguel Batista on his throw day. It was a brilliant move in my opinion, though it appears the saves will be parceled out to a committee.

Jorge Posada (0 DXL)
"Barking." If I hadn't heard the term before, I would have thought that Brian Cashman just wanted to hear Erin Andrews say it on air. The term is one of those like "tweak" that gets used for soreness, stiffness, and/or swelling. Posada's shoulder is bothering him and it's no more or no less important than that. Joe Girardi and the team decided to play it safe and keep Posada out against A.J. Burnett, a pitcher he's had limited success against anyway. The most worrisome part is that this soreness is coming so soon into the season. If this was July, I'd barely take note of this, waving it off with a simple "he's an older catcher, what do you expect?" If Posada's dealing with one of those things, then we'll all look back on this as what it was, a good opportunity to take a day off. If, however, this is the first sign of something-and I'll go on record that I don't think it is-then we'll at least know where it started. One thing I will do is slightly reduce my expectations for him on his playing time. This goes with Joe Girardi's history both as and in using a backup catcher.

Pedro Martinez (30 DXL)
The Mets are giving the general guideline of four to six weeks with Martinez. His recovery from the hamstring strain-a Grade II strain, I'm told, very high in the muscle-is going to take about that long. Given Martinez's injury history, conditioning, and competitiveness, I'm keeping his DXL near the low end. The biggest question will be how much this de-conditions his arm. In the past, some pitchers with leg injuries have been able to use various drills that protect their legs as they work to keep the arm in shape. This will be a role reversal for Martinez, who's used to having his legs and not his arm. The hamstring should heal normally, but judging this within the context of his overall health and his known recovery periods, I think that he'll keep things on the low end, coming out of this well and getting a side benefit of a controlled innings workload placed on his rebuilt shoulder.

John Lackey (45)
The Angels are hoping that Lackey will be cleared to do more than play catch (which he's been doing this week) once they get back to the OC, and get him looked at by their doctors. As much as possible, Lackey has been trying to "stay in game shape," an interesting thing since he's barely pitched this spring. Lackey's ahead of the schedule originally set for him after this latest arm problem, but he still has to be well behind most pitchers in stamina. Assuming that he gets back on a mound sometime next week, the best possible scenario-or at least the quickest return possible-would have him back in the rotation about at the end of the month. That would be aggressive, but not unheard of. I'm not ready to adjust his DXL down just yet. We'll wait to see how he comes out of his exam and how the Angels manage his return. Even in that quick scenario, Lackey will likely to have strict pitch limits, and there's a higher chance of recurrence.

Mark Prior (90 DXL)
Prior has progressed to throwing batting practice. That's a very positive step, one more towards his actually getting back on the mound against actual batters. The arm strength is not yet back and his stamina is certainly in question, two things that will have to come back as he continues a long rehab process. For comparison, Prior's injury is comparable to that of Bartolo Colon, who will start in Triple-A Pawtucket tonight, or Mark Mulder, who is at about the same stage in his second comeback as Prior is in his first. Prior is on the 60-day DL, so the Padres are taking the long-term approach. At some point in the next few weeks, we should start hearing rumblings of his working in simulated games, but there's really no way of giving any solid time line here.

Scott Kazmir (20 DXL)
"One more bullpen session" is the word from the Rays regarding Kazmir. Kaz-who really needs a better nickname-was able to get through a 45-pitch session that included changeups without any problem; on Saturday, he's expected to mix in his breaking stuff. If all goes well, the next step will be some sort of game action, though it's not yet known whether that will be a simulated game, an extended spring training game, or a minor league appearance. The guess is that he'll have two games made up of some combination of those options before rejoining the Rays rotation sometime towards the end of the month. The conservative course is frustrating, but smart.

Chris Duncan (2 DXL)
You might consider Duncan kind of a throwback to the days of the big, hulking left fielder, the Dave Kingman type. At least you'd think that, but he's actually pretty athletic, like Kingman was, so the "throwback" part is right, but some may have a misconception of these players due to their size. Duncan will miss a couple of days as the Cards try to make sure that a minor hamstring strain doesn't become anything more than that. They'll hold him out, using one of their interchangeable outfield parts in the interim. This shouldn't be an issue, assuming that they're able to repair the mild strain that he aggravated on the basepaths with rest. As always, MLB.com's Matthew Leach makes it hard for me to say much more by getting all the important details.

Victor Martinez (5 DXL)
"Light baseball activities" is one of those vague terms that really doesn't tell us much at all, but they're what Martinez did yesterday, just a few days after straining his hamstring in the Indians' opener. So what is it that he did? He took some cuts in the batting cage and played catch. Yeah, that's both light and baseball-related, so label is accurate. What Martinez didn't do was run or catch, so those will be the next steps before Martinez gets back into the Indians lineup. He's expected back quickly, perhaps as early as this weekend, though the Indians are likely to be a bit conservative with Martinez. The Indians will be watching closely, but the biggest factor might be the weather. Martinez just doesn't seem to do well in the cold, a problem for a Cleveland player at this time of the year, but the team is hitting the road for Oakland.

Tim Lincecum (0 DXL)
So Bruce Bochy and Joe Torre both held out their starting pitchers because of impending storms. I'll buy into that line of thinking, so as not to lose a turn from one of his top pitchers. The problem comes later. When Bochy (and Torre) both thought the storm had past and it was still a close game, both put in the starting pitchers-Lincecum and Chad Billingsley-only to see the storm generate an extended delay. Billingsley was pulled after only a third of an inning despite a short bullpen, with Torre not wanting to risk his pitcher's arm after the delay. Lincecum, on the other hand, was sent back out, getting in a couple more innings after the 1:14 delay, and in sloppy conditions. Lincecum's a freak, yes, but Bochy took a very short-term view with one of the two good things he has at his disposal this season, wanting to win the opening series with the Dodgers. We'll see if it was worth it.

Tom Gorzelanny (0 DXL)
Here's all you need to know. Gorzelanny was systematically abused at the end of last season in search of a meaningless 15th win. In his first start of the season, he ranged from 84-94 with his fastball. More tellingly, he only cleared the 90 mark only once after the first inning. This spring, he racked up only four strikeouts, looking much more like a finesse guy instead of the power pitcher that the Pirates developed. The Gameday measurement comes from the release, so it's normally a bit "fast" in terms of gun readings. One can only hope that this isn't the legacy that Jim Tracy left behind in Pittsburgh-a talented pitcher sacrificed for nothing. At least Dusty Baker was going for a title when he used up the Cubs' best pitching talent.

Quick Cuts: I never, ever thought I'd hear the day where a MLB general manager said "Grade II hamstring." Ever. The hammy in question belongs to Elijah Dukes, who will miss a month and be brought back carefully. ... Just sad, this story about Corey Koskie. ... Kelly Johnson should be back in the lineup quickly after a couple of days off to help heal up a minor knee injury. ... Conor Jackson left last night's game due to an illness. He's not going to miss much, if any, time. ... Marco Scutaro is headed for images on his hand after being hit by a pitch. It swelled up significantly during the course of the game. ... Hey look, the Cubs won something. Though I'd argue it's Tampa Bay. ... I had the chance to sit alongside my pal Scott McCauley yesterday as he called the Butler vs. Marian baseball game from Victory Field in Indy. The telecast is archived, if you'd like to make fun of me.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Hamstring

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