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April 24, 2008

Under The Knife

Rehab Heroics

by Will Carroll

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Scott Kazmir (30 DXL)
Here's an interesting thought: Kazmir made it through a second rehab start at High-A Vero Beach, going 4 2/3 innings and giving up a couple of homers without having his arm fall off. That's normally what you're going to get here, but the two homers got me to thinking, who hit them? Was it some luck job where Kazmir is working on his fastball, some kid stuck his bat out, and it curled around the short porch pole, or were these honest homers? The homers were to the first and the last batter Kazmir faced; that's pretty unusual right there. They were hit by Palm Beach's Steve Hill (a 23-year-old catcher out of Stephen F Austin who blew through two leagues last year with some fair power) and Tyler Henley (a center fielder out of Rice who's showing more power this season in the FSL). Everybody involved is Texan, another bit of trivia. Neither Cards prospect made Kevin Goldstein's Top 11, so while both seem to be legit, they're not exactly hot prospects. Instead, they're precisely the kind of guys you find in A-ball. None of Kevin's Top 11 for the Cardinals are at Palm Beach, for that matter, so it's just one of those things. I'm not sure if knowing all this tells us anything, but like any information, it's better to have it than not. Kazmir now heads to Triple-A for one more rehab start, then back to the Rays; he's still on track to get his first start in early May.

Chad Cordero (10 DXL)
Sometimes, going to Birmingham isn't so bad. It's a nice city, picturesque with some beautiful neighborhoods, a vibrant local music scene, and better restaurants than you'd expect for a city its size. Also, visiting Jim Andrews isn't always the automatic end of a player's season that you might expect. Yes, things aren't good when there's even a need to go, but as was the case with Cordero, the news wasn't as bad as expected. Andrews diagnosed Cordero with tendonitis and weakness in the shoulder. To recover, he'll start a strengthening program immediately, and is expected to be back in days, not months. It's a very positive turn, with Cordero not even needing a trip to the DL. There's still the problem of the root cause, which with no structural damage suggests either poor conditioning or overwork. The "clicking" that Cordero reported? That's another mystery. We'll just have to wait until Cordero gets back on the mound and see what happens. I'm dropping his DXL to 10 days, but even that might be too much according to most reports.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (3 DXL)
I stress-tested my iPhone last night. About six o'clock, the texts and mails just went nuts as I was walking through the grocery store. "Dice K scratched." So, I wind up forgetting onions, bleach, and paper towels, and it turns out that the reason is relatively minor: Matsuzaka caught the flu that has been going through the Red Sox clubhouse. Along with Josh Beckett, Matsuzaka will be cycled back into the rotation once he's recovered. The Sox are in one of those tough areas where the DL doesn't help, but the roster is stretched tight. It's a situation that the thought-of-everything Sox front office normally excels in, so let's see how they handle this sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, needs some arms and a win or two situation.

Jake Westbrook (20 DXL)
Paul Hoynes got the scoop in Cleveland: Westbrook strained the bottom intracostal on his left side, completely unrelated to his previous oblique injury. He injured it with the all-too-typical "something extra." More interestingly, the mechanism of injury is that he threw so hard, his body literally tried to rend itself. As bad as that sounds, this is still roughly the same thing that I wrote about yesterday, so I'm not changing the DXL at this stage. I was asked last year to assess Westbrook's injury risk, and I'll stand by what I said then, despite two subsequent muscular injuries: he's the type of guy that can keep doing what he's doing for at least the term of the deal he signed with the Indians.

Mike Gonzalez (45 DXL)
We've heard this story before-a hard-throwing closer blows out his elbow, gets Tommy John surgery, then comes back early. This time, it's Gonzalez who's well ahead of schedule, not B.J. Ryan, throwing a simulated game and going two innings while showing solid velocity. Although he didn't throw breaking balls, it was a big step forward. The Braves' medical staff now believes that Gonzalez is ready for an imminent rehab assignment and could be back as soon as mid-May. The typical questions apply about his stamina, stuff, and his ability to recover for use in consecutive games, but the Braves are unusually excited about Gonzalez's prospects to answer positively to all of them. With Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan both out, getting Gonzalez back early could be huge. Look for a rehab road map to be laid out next week, with the rehab assignment starting late next week.

Michael Bourn (4 DXL)
For a speed player, a groin strain is like kryptonite. Even more than a hamstring strain, a groin injury doesn't just prevent a player from running, it prevents him from even wanting to run. Bourn will miss a couple more games as he tries to recover from a mild groin strain, but the important thing here isn't the injury (which is mild), but how it's being handled. Sources tell me that Bourn and the medical staff want to be very conservative, but that Cecil Cooper and the front office don't want to play a man down, even for only a couple of days. Even once Bourn is back in the lineup-which will happen by Friday at the latest-or a DL move will be considered, he's not likely to be running much, which severely reduces his value for Houston and his fantasy owners.

Michael Cuddyer (20 DXL)
The Twins should get Cuddyer back on Friday; he's in Florida playing in extended spring training and reportedly had no problems throwing or hitting. The dislocated finger did swell slightly after the game, so Cuddyer's not back to 100 percent quite yet, but there's no reason to think there's a larger than normal recurrence risk. He's expected to slot back into his spots in right field and in the middle of the order. Scoring less than four runs a game, the Twins are certainly excited about getting Cuddyer back.

Gary Sheffield (5 DXL)
Curtis Granderson (20 DXL)
Sheffield had to do want he didn't want to do, taking a cortisone shot in his repaired shoulder to try and reduce some of the inflammation occurring as scar tissue breaks loose in his shoulder. The good news is that once the inflammation clears, tests revealed that he'll have nearly full range of motion which should mean that his swing will return to normal. Adding the shoulder issue in with his injured finger, it's easy to see why Sheffield is having a rough start at the plate, but with this latest information there's now a clear path to when Sheffield is going to be effective again. That makes him an ideal 'buy-low' candidate if you're looking for some offense. Sheffield will take a couple more days off to let the cortisone work its magic, and then should be back in the lineup at DH. The Tigers got additional good news and good results when Granderson came off of the DL and made his season debut last night, going 2-for-4 with two RBI. He didn't appear to be having any problems with the finger, and should be good to go from this point.

Cole Hamels (0 DXL)
Sometimes, you just let the readers speak. B.H. wrote: "Charlie Manuel [expletive deleted] has lost his mind. Five of five games this season he's left Cole Hamels in the game beyond 100 [expletive deleted] pitches. Never mind that he's never had five starts over 100 pitches back to back (though there was that equally [expletive deleted] run of four starts near/over 110 pitches last May) or that tonight against Milwaukee, aka the [expletive deleted] lefty killers, after rolling the dice and getting Cole to have a successful seventh (racking up two more Ks), he sends Hamels back out with 110 [expletive deleted] pitches with Braun, Fielder and Hart. Give me a [expletive deleted] break. Instead of leaving the game with a 4-3 lead, Braun doubles on three pitches and Fielder follows it up with a HR seven pitches after that. 121 pitches on the night! Never mind that we're talking Cole [expletive deleted] Hamels. He who was rushed to the majors at the first sign of health two years ago to maximize his value. He of the numerous arm injuries. He who has never gone 121 pitches in a game before... Against two lefty killers and a guy who hit a HR on him already that evening. This is two consecutive starts now that [expletive deleted] Manuel has left Hamels in for an inning too long (against the Mets it was trotting him out to load the bases (the last on an intentional walk) before pulling him... after which all inherited runners scored. To say the least, it's a bit [expletive deleted] frustrating."

Quick Cuts: Here's an interesting one from one of my best sources: the Yankees are removing all candy from the clubhouse. Joe Girardi feels the team isn't in good enough shape. Even Baby Ruth? ... Scott Rolen will start for the Blue Jays on Friday, at least according to GM J.P. Ricciardi, but Rolen's unsure if he's ready. ... Andy LaRoche begins a rehab assignment, which implies that he'll soon join the big club. Joe Sheehan addressed the problems with Nomar Garciaparra yesterday, so Dodgers fans have to be watching closely to see how long it takes LaRoche to get his swing ready. ... Mike Morse tore his labrum and will miss the season after shoulder surgery. I wish I had stats for injuries of players known to have been steroid users, because I bet they would be up far more than performance. Still, best wishes to Morse on his recovery. ... BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky has been traded from the IRS to the FDA, though it appears he'll continue working on this and other drug cases. His former supervisor admitted to the NY Times that Novitzky's work had been "a stretch for the IRS."

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Michael Bourn,  Year Of The Injury

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