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April 28, 2008

Under The Knife

Quick Work and Gray Braves

by Will Carroll

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Chipper Jones (3 DXL)
John Smoltz (7 DXL)
The Braves understand that one of the risks involved with older, injury-prone players is that they're going to need to go to their backups. The team has them in place, but they'd hoped they wouldn't have to use them quite yet; it's one thing to have Plan B in place, and quite another to put Plan B in the rotation or in place of your hottest hitter. Smoltz is no stranger to shoulder problems, but normally they've been coming towards the end of seasons, which would make fatigue a contributing factor. With these latest problems coming so early in the season, we have to hope that fatigue isn't the issue, but at this stage, it doesn't seem like the Braves really know what's involved. Sources tell me that the soreness is in a "lower area" than what had him on the DL at the start of the year. They'll wait for the shoulder to calm down before further examination, an indication that there's an inflammatory process going on. He'll miss a start and could hit the DL after a scheduled examination on Tuesday. The Braves will also be without Jones until at least Tuesday; he described the back spasms he experienced over the weekend as a "sledgehammer in the back." That doesn't sound good, but Jones tends to heal quickly and come back at normal capacity. His small injuries-quad, back, foot-are already adding up, but Jones is hitting through all of them, so assess your level of risk tolerance. Bobby Cox is used to this.

Kerwin Danley (7 DXL)
Here's the quote that stood out to me in the Kerwin Danley story: Umpire Greg Gibson, Danley's crew chief, said "I've had three concussions myself." Anyone who saw Danley go down after being struck on the mask by a 96 mph Brad Penny fastball understands the forces in play and the dangers involved when something as common as a sign getting crossed occurs. Danley was released from the hospital on Sunday morning, in large part due to the quick work of the Dodgers medical staff; watch the video and see how fast Stan Conte gets to him. Ironically, Conte has conducted studies in the past on catcher's masks, looking for ways that incidents like this could be minimized. I've made a lot of calls before for improved protection for pitchers, but catchers and umpires deserve the same kind of research. I can only hope the sporting goods manufacturers are watching, because its a problem all the way down to Little League. Concussions are serious business. It's the ultimate sign of respect that I give Danley only 7 DXL. If it's good enough for the best players in the game, it's good enough for the best officials.

David Ortiz (1 DXL)
Papi missed a couple of games during the weekend, the result of what was called "bruising" in his repaired knee. There's two explanations here, and they couldn't be more dissimilar from one another. The minimal scenario is that Ortiz has a simple traumatic bruise, resulting from his "car accident" of a headfirst slide. We all understand those-they hurt, they heal, and we move on. The second and more troubling possibility is that there's some internal bruising as well, caused by bone-on-bone contact after the removal of part of his meniscus last winter. We see this more often in the NFL, where there's more running and weight-bearing activities with guys carrying more weight than even Ortiz. This would be an issue of maintenance and pain tolerance, something the Red Sox are good at. We'll have to see how well Ortiz handles the situation and adjusts to it; early indications are that he's slow to adjust, but can.

Grady Sizemore (1 DXL)
Sizemore is dealing with a mild sprain of his ankle and missed Sunday's game in order to give it time to heal. It's not considered serious, though ankle sprains do have the tendency to linger, and can get inflamed by seemingly minor things. In addition to his other skills, Sizemore has always been very healthy; his easy-looking style of play contributes to this, in direct contrast to center fielders like Jim Edmonds or Aaron Rowand. In a discussion about Sizemore with a front office type last season, he mentioned that Sizemore was "always clean." I wasn't sure this was a compliment, since "dirtbag" is a term of endearment. He explained that Sizemore did things with such physical ease that he didn't have to dive or slide in most situations, and that he was the type of player that "dirt doesn't stick to" when he is forced to stretch for one. The mild sprain shouldn't keep Sizemore out long, if at all past the day off he was already given.

Moises Alou (45 DXL)
Alou was very close to a return from hernia surgery when it was discovered he may have a fractured ankle. It's not clear if this is a stress fracture or a traumatic fracture. Complicating things is that this is the same ankle Alou nearly had destroyed by an injury in 1993. There could have been some lingering damage there, as anyone who has seen Alou since then would acknowledge that the joint is not "normal." I can remember first seeing that ankle in 2002, almost cringing as Alou rolled down his sock to show it to me in the Wrigley clubhouse. The Mets and Alou think he'll be able to come through this, but sources acknowledge that Alou seems tired of the injuries and could decide to call it a career. At this stage, Alou will miss at least another couple of additional weeks with this latest injury, so we'll set the DXL at 45 (inclusive of his hernia recovery).

Jorge Posada (30 DXL)
The worst-case scenario for the Yankees has always been injuries. The moves that the team needs to make around any DL move throw things off, certainly more than what we see in Boston. Posada seemed to come back from his "dead arm," but just a week later it's clear that the shoulder isn't going to hold up. What's not as clear is the path back. Remember that MRI that reportedly showed no structural damage? Now, not so much, because Posada has a torn rotator cuff, the same muscle (the subscapularis) that has Rich Harden on the shelf. Posada will head to Birmingham for an examination and consultation with Jim Andrews. After the announcement, Posada seemed very emotional, which could indicate that he knows this is a longer-term injury or could just be a reaction to being placed on the DL for the first time. A subscapular tear is a bad thing for a catcher, and it isn't something that one can come back from quickly, though surgery doesn't look like an option. I'm setting Posada's DXL at 30, but remember that he could come back as a DH more quickly than that. The problem is that's not what the Yankees need, and certainly not what they thought they were signing, though they had to understand the risks of signing an older catcher, even one as durable as Posada.

Rafael Soriano (30 DXL)
The Braves' potential closer had a setback during his rehab and is now going to need more time on the shelf. After a brief shutdown, Soriano will get back into his throwing program, and hopefully the elbow discomfort he's feeling will fade. There's going to be at least two more side sessions, meaning the best-case scenario for his return is the weekend, rather than Tuesday, which is what Soriano and the Braves were saying last week. Once back, this episode of discomfort will put Soriano's recovery in question, and he may not immediately come back to the sole closer role. One team source anticipated Soriano being part of a "committee" at first, if two-Soriano and Manny Acosta-can be considered a committee. More importantly, Soriano may not be able to lock down the closer role by the time Mike Gonzalez comes back, which could make it a three-headed committee.

Brett Myers (0 DXL)
David Murphy (not that one) has the details in the Philly Daily News about how Myers has lost his fastball. While we've already talked a lot this season about velocity, this isn't a dead arm or a game-day situation; it appears something has actually just gone out of Myers' arm. The transition from starter to reliever and back is going to be looked at as a culprit, but there's no evidence that it's actually the cause. Instead, it seems that Myers' conditioning might be in question. In Murphy's article, pitching coach Rich Dubee is quoted saying that he wants Myers doing long toss, something the hurler's long avoided. While there's no indication that this is an injury, Myers is either going to have to find his heater quickly or make the shift to finesse pitcher in a hurry. Some might just call this karma. Even with Brad Lidge in place, I wonder if the Phillies might consider moving Myers back to the pen to see if he can find his fastball in shorter stints.

Quick Cuts: Ben Sheets made it through the important Saturday side session without issue and is on schedule to make his start tomorrow. I say 'on schedule' because no final decision has been made by the Brewers. ... Rich Harden seems close to a rehab assignment. Expect it to be short, since the A's want to maximize his value when he is healthy. ... Nomar Garciaparra and his "G2 life" are heading back to kicking it "DL style." A strained calf is the culprit this time. ... Jimmy Rollins was able to participate in batting practice and some infielding practice over the weekend, making it even more curious that they waited, lost the retroactive DL assignment possibility, and then DL'd him. ... Kevin Correia hits the DL for the Giants with an oblique strain. He'll be replaced by Pat Misch until Noah Lowry returns. ... Mike Lowell completed his rehab assignment without incident and should be back in the Red Sox lineup on Tuesday. ... The D'backs aren't sure if Micah Owings will miss his next start yet after spraining his ankle on the bases. They'll give him every chance to make the start, I'm told. ... Carlos Gomez has a mild hamstring strain. Speed player, hamstring-you know the lyrics. He's expected back in the lineup early this week. ... It looks like Alfonso Soriano will come off of the DL on May 1, but will once again be under orders to limit his running. They should limit the hop too, because team sources say it was the hop. ... Hank Blalock will undergo an MRI on his hamstring to see when he'll be available to return, while Michael Young is trying to keep a calf strain from getting worse. ... I don't know who's been saying that Justin Verlander had lost velocity, but man, he's sure looking like he's got his heat on Sunday night's game. ... Mindy McCready? Couldn't he at least give me an excuse to link to pictures of Julianne Hough or LeAnn Rimes? ... Brian Schneider hit the DL and is dealing with MRSA, the latest athlete that has had to deal with this type of infection. The Mets are taking this incident very seriously, in the hopes of keeping any other players from suffering the same fate.

Related Content:  Will Myers,  Back,  The Who,  Rafael Soriano,  Fractured Ankle,  Quad-a

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