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April 23, 2008

Under The Knife

Aces Down

by Will Carroll

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Josh Beckett (0 DXL)
The Red Sox pulled Beckett from his start last night, citing a stiff neck as the cause. They were ready, having David Pauley up from Pawtucket, but holding off on the official roster move until they knew they needed to make it, which shows that this didn't just happen immediately before the start. The Sox didn't really say much about the flu going around the clubhouse, but the Boston Globe noted that Beckett was dealing with some flu-like symptoms, and that they likely factored into the decision. Right now, the Sox are in wait-and-see mode with Beckett, unclear over whether they will skip his start or if they'll slot him in later this week. I'd bet on the latter, which will also, in essence, buy them one of those extra days of rest for their young pitchers and for Daisuke Matsuzaka. Expect some roster juggling, because Pauley didn't pitch well, and the Sox may not need to keep him up.

Ben Sheets (20 DXL)
The Brewers skipped Sheets in the rotation this turn through, but they're hoping that he'll be ready in another five days. They want to avoid repeating history and potentially getting stuck in another production of Waiting For Sheets. Getting Yovani Gallardo back at the same point that Sheets went down was convenient, but it doesn't help fix Sheets' continuing soreness in the area near his shoulder. Complicating the decision over what to do is the Brewers' decision to carry 14 pitchers, which is partly the result of waiting on a decision to put Sheets on the DL with a retroactive move. It's smart to wait, potentially saving two Sheets starts, but there's a big difference between playing a man short and putting your team in a position where it has few bench players. I anticipate the Brewers making a decision on the DL by Sheets' throw day, which if he stays on schedule would be Friday. We'll have to see how that goes before we know much more about the soreness in his shoulder. You can tell by the DXL which way I think this is headed.

Jake Westbrook (20 DXL)
When teams don't disclose the full story on an injury publicly, you find that they seldom do it with specifics. Instead, you'll hear them list things that it isn't, or wrap themselves in vagaries. Speculation that Westbrook's injury isn't the intracostal strain that the Indians announced when placing him on the DL is reasonable, especially given Westbrook's history of oblique strains and the proximity of the two muscles to one another; even the symptoms are alike. I find that when the Indians give information out, it's based on fact and evidence, not guesses; when they don't know, they're more general. Westbrook has an intracostal strain, painful, but not as lingering as an oblique strain due to the bloodflow and the ability to rest it. The muscle is also not as involved in the pitching motion. How Westbrook strained the muscle is still a bit unclear, but he'll miss the 15 days that come with a DL assignment, and likely a few more, perhaps making one rehab start if he's not able to keep up his arm strength. One possible fill-in is top prospect Adam Miller at Triple-A, though that would be a very aggressive move that would be out of character for the Indians.

J.J. Putz (15 DXL)
The Mariners brought their closer off of the DL as expected, and dropped him right into a closing situation. He didn't appear to have any problems or rust from the time off, getting the save efficiently, and notching a couple of strikeouts in the effort. Putz was clocked as high as 98 and showed all his pitches, so it appears that any concerns have passed. As I noted with Westbrook, intracostal strains don't have quite the recurrence risk that oblique strains do, so all signs appear positive for Putz. Expect him to have his normal usage from here on out. One thing to note here is that while Putz does seem to have some minor physical problems, they occur at some obvious weak points in the kinetic chain, which points to the important points of that chain-his shoulder and elbow-being relatively strong. Add in that his physical problems usually occur early or late in the season, and much of this could be the result of conditioning or fatigue.

Erik Bedard (15 DXL)
Bedard's return was pushed back to Saturday, but thus far, there's been no good explanation as to exactly why Saturday is better than the initially-announced Thursday. It looks like it could just be the way the roster fell, with Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista both ready to start on Thursday and Friday. Either way, the first start back for Bedard after missing time with hip inflammation will be watched closely. He hasn't made it through a start in a Seattle uniform without problems, and now some are questioning whether the problem isn't mechanical. One pitching coach pointed out to me that Bedard's motion includes a turn at the start that could be the root cause of the hip problems. Whether the M's can or should correct the problem remains to be seen, but there's a lot riding on that sore left hip.

Alfonso Soriano (15 DXL)
The Cubs are very encouraged by the progress Soriano is making in coming back from his calf strain. He's made it through the initial stages of his rehab without any problems, and is ready to start more running to test the leg and to help strengthen it. He's on track to return at the minimum, though the focus is now going from getting him back to making sure he stays off of the DL in the future. That's likely to take a combination of maintenance, reduced running (as he had last year, which didn't really help with the legs in the longer term), and whatever else the Cubs can find that works. Sources tell me that the team is taking a very "agnostic approach" to dealing with the situation, and are willing to listen to almost anything. It's not unlike what the Mets went through with Jose Reyes, but hardly the same situation. In the end, I'd imagine that Soriano 2008 is going to end up a lot like Soriano 2007. It's just that they have him signed through, what, Soriano 3007?

Alex Rodriguez (5 DXL)
There's more than just a quad strain keeping A-Rod out. The muscle strain, the schedule, and Rodriguez's wife giving birth on Monday have combined to keep him out, so don't be too worried here. The comparisons to Derek Jeter's quad strain are too perfect to be ignored, so I expect this to go much the same way-a couple of days off followed by a quiet return to the lineup and no further problems. First, Rodriguez will have to rejoin the team and get examined. Expectations are that he'll be out of action through the White Sox series and come back in time for the weekend set with the Indians. All in all, this appears to be as minor as the Yankees had initially hoped.

Chad Cordero (150 DXL)
He's headed to Birmingham. (You know, you'd think that at this stage uttering that phrase would be greeted with solemn nods.) Sources tell me that all the signs are pointing to a labrum tear, including Cordero's own admission he felt the shoulder was "clicking" after his last outing. By itself, that's not much to go on, but paired with the velocity loss, the "dead" feeling, and the lack of any bounceback after rest and treatment, the Nats are prepping for the worst-case scenario. If it's a torn labrum, the Nationals lose more than a closer, they lose a player they'd expected to be a valuable trading chip at midseason. There's nothing in the usage, mechanics, or history that suggests this is anything more than one of those injuries that one ATC says he "files under when bad things happen to good people." Cordero and the Nats will wait for Dr. Andrews' opinion before making any decisions; don't expect any panic moves. I'm setting his DXL to mark this a season-ender, but as with any DXL, it's subject to change with new and hopefully more positive information.

Carlos Guillen (0 DXL)
Miguel Cabrera (0 DXL)
At the start of the season, one of the red lights that I really took note of the most was the one given to Guillen. He was moved to first base to protect his knees, a move I wasn't sure would work due to the demands of a job that actually stresses a player's knees. Guillen hasn't been the most healthy, but neither has Miguel Cabrera, so I'm wondering if it's defense, the injuries, or both that have factored into their planned job swap. Guillen will shift to third, while Cabrera will move to first, and no, I don't this latest development makes Brandon Inge any happier. So does this raise the injury risk for both players, the way that a position change normally does? I'll say yes on Cabrera, though the move to first does lower the risk of further muscular problems enough to have it make relative sense. For Guillen, who's played the hot corner before, I'm less convinced there's any increased risk, especially considering he's already an elevated risk anyway. In the end, this move makes sense, especially with Inge lurking at the ready once Guillen inevitably needs some rest.

Quick Cuts: C.C. Sabathia's OK. ... Pedro Martinez appears to be slightly ahead of schedule and could be cleared for baseball activities soon. ... Matt Garza is scheduled to come off of the DL and start on Friday; he had no problems with his arm after his rehab start. ... Scott Rolen could come off of the DL as early as Friday, as he's already started a rehab assignment in High-A Dunedin. ... Cesar Izturis was plunked on the elbow, forcing Albert Pujols to play second base. Images on the elbow were negative, but Izturis will miss a couple of games. ... Tigers fans could see Joel Zumaya back on a mound sometime next week. However, it will be in Lakeland, and while he's noted to be "ahead of schedule," he's still not going to be back before midseason. ... Mike Lowell is taking batting practice and could head out for a rehab assignment by the weekend. He should be back by early next week if all goes according to plan. ... Shane Victorino has started a rehab assignment and should be back next week, barring any new setback. ... Omar Vizquel is due to play some rehab games by the weekend, but sources are telling me that there are still lingering problems with his knee. Brian Bocock's play isn't encouraging the Giants to rush Vizquel back. ... What he said. ... Moises Alou is having no problems during his rehab and should be activated next week by the Mets.

Related Content:  Back,  Information Problems,  Jake Westbrook,  Quad-a

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