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May 8, 2008

Under The Knife

Fashionably Hurt

by Will Carroll

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Curt Schilling (90 DXL)
Schilling is back on a mound-and his soapbox. We haven't heard a lot from Schilling since his injury, but he manned up and said that he was wrong about the Red Sox's plan for him to rehab it instead of going under the knife. Thus far, their plan has worked, and the risky surgery his doctor recommended, while it might have worked, just wasn't worth the risk. (Call me when someone has a successful result from the biceps tenodesis and comes back to pitch.) Even so, there's still a lot of risk here, not only for a recurrence, but that he's not going to be strong enough to pitch effectively, that he won't be able to recover well, or that he won't be able to adjust without causing more problems. These are all real concerns that will have to be addressed as he moves his rehab plan onto the mound and against competition. There hasn't been discussion yet of "Smoltzing" him and using him in relief, though it did work during his ankle rehab a couple of seasons back, at least temporarily. The Sox are hoping that he can come back and be effective, taking some of the workload off of young pitchers like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and Schilling wants to win and put the team into position for another ring. It's going to be very interesting as a medhead to watch how this all plays out. We'll just have to see how Curt's new gyroball works.

Esteban Loaiza (15 DXL)
The Dodgers appear to be taking the bad-a shoulder injury for Loaiza, one they're calling "tightness and muscle spasms"-and creating some good. According to both published reports and sources, Clayton Kershaw looks to be the fill-in starter; the prize prospect's big league debut should come in Anaheim on May 17. (Interleague matchups, already?) To amp up the drama a little, Loaiza protested the DL move, saying he feels fine. He did go through his normal between-starts routine, so caution and the chance to debut their phenom against the crosstown rival appear to have intersected. Loaiza should only be out the minimum-unless Kershaw locks down the spot, something that's entirely possible. In the meantime, Yhency Brazoban will take the roster spot vacated in hopes of bolstering the pen.

Alex Rodriguez (15 DXL)
Peter Abraham has the details on the plan for A-Rod. He's headed to Tampa for some more work with their crack medical staff and to play a couple of games in A-ball, then rejoining the big league team down the street as they take on the Rays mid-week. So far, the moderate strain is coming along normally and should have Rodriguez back in the lineup at the minimum. The Yankees are being a bit cautious here, knowing the Rodriguez bows to pressure and wants to please, both of which factored in to his pushing his way into the lineup and exacerbating the original strain. They won't let that happen again, so a few extra days tacked on wouldn't surprise me. Once back, Rodriguez shouldn't have any trouble at the plate or in the field. He shouldn't lose significant range and his running isn't a big part of his game anyway.

Rich Harden (30 DXL)
Harden dominated at Triple-A, showing no problem with any phase of his pitching, and throwing at full velocity with excellent command. There's really no question about his ability to pitch, it's his ability to stay healthy. Despite some mechanical changes designed to help him stay healthy, he didn't. The kinetic chain that a pitcher uses to create and transfer force is like any other chain, in that there's always a weak link. That link is tested if the forces aren't correctly transferred and dissipated, or if there's simply too much force for the anatomical structures to hold up under the peak or repeated forces. With rotator cuff injuries, it's more about stamina than building up the muscles. Because of that, I have a sense that Harden will be able to hold together better. He's strong, perhaps too strong, and muscular if you believe some pitching experts. The stamina becomes the bigger issue and, paired with the mechanical changes, I think he'll be able to build that up to a point where he'll stay healthy for a while. He's always going to be very risky, but there's a window of opportunity that should open up when he gets back on a major league mound this Sunday against Texas.

Barry Zito (0 DXL)
The Giants put Zito in the bullpen for a week without using him as a reliever before putting him back in the rotation. The question is whether it was a break of sorts, a mental vacation, or whether he was working on something and just pushed out of the rotation in order to focus on it. So far, it seems as if it was more the former, something of a surprise given Zito's tendency to tinker. The idea that the Giants, with this much invested in him and no clear path to retrieving Zito's value, wouldn't pull out all the stops and bring in... well, anyone, from Tom House to Dr. Phil, is just stunning. Zito has been through slumps before, but was able to get out of them. All along, he's had his health, which makes his inability to pull up from this dive so inexplicable. I think Zito needs a change of scenery or to take control of this situation himself, much in the same way that Tim Lincecum has.

Rafael Furcal (1 DXL)
The Dodgers used an offday to buy Furcal a bit more time to heal up his sore back. The muscular pain and spasm he's having seem to be the only thing that can slow him down this season, but the back issue is considered transient. However, it can be one of those injuries that can recur, linger, and cause some changes to his game. With Chin-Lung Hu available and gaining Joe Torre's trust, Furcal might need to keep up this torrid pace to avoid losing some at-bats to the slick young shortstop. Losing a day here and there to preventive resting isn't something that really shows up in terms of DXL, so you'll have to make a mental note. Furcal should be back in the lineup on Friday, and we'll have to watch to make sure he's not exhibiting any signs of further problem.

John McDonald (15 DXL)
David Eckstein (5 DXL)
The Jays lost two shortstops in one game on Tuesday, with Eckstein first injuring his hip flexor, and then hi s replacement, defensive whiz John McDonald, getting bit hard by the seldom-seen turf monster just an inning later. Eckstein's injury appears to be the less serious of the two, leaving him day to day, and with most sources thinking that he'll be back over the weekend. It's significantly worse for McDonald, who had to be carted off the diamond. McDonald's foot caught a seam in the turf, something that's thankfully uncommon these days, and rolled hard. The ankle was not only severely swollen, reports say that he lost some sensation in his foot, a nerve problem that is common in severe ankle injuries. As of Wednesday night the sensation has returned, but McDonald's hope of avoiding the DL rides on some imaging and a media campaign. The Jays have options, including plugging in Marco Scutaro in the short term, but neither or both of these shortstops could end up on the DL. The DXL I've given above should tell you which way I think this will go.

Michael Young (TBD)
Hip flexors are the injury du jour, and Young appears to have aggravated his in Wednesday's game. Young has spent much of the season dealing with various leg problems, none terribly serious on its own, but collectively seeming to drag him down. His range, already the biggest question in his game, has seemed affected, but at least his hitting hasn't, as he's gotten back a bit of the power he lost last season without giving much else up. Hurting himself on a swing, though, is troubling. Young is a durable player-his 156 games played last year is a low for him since establishing himself as a starter-and proud enough that he's tough to lift for anything but a truly severe injury. The Rangers will need to watch him closely to make sure they're keeping their leader on the field long term and at his best. I'm holding off on the DXL until we get some more information.

Mark Mulder (90 DXL)
The Cardinals watched Mulder get knocked around at Double- and Triple-A before finally saying they'd seen enough. He was checked out and found to have a mild rotator cuff strain. It's not likely the cause, but it is enough to stop his rehab and give him a chance to regroup and work on strengthening the shoulder, and then seeing if they can find what still seems lost. Shoulder injuries are tough to come back from, and seeing the course of Mulder's injury history (which really matches the run of UTK) is interesting, going from his hip to his back to his shoulder. Once again, we see the kinetic chain in effect, cascading from spot to spot and finding the weakest link. Mulder's unlikely at this point to find much that he hasn't already found, but there's still something in there, and as long as he's willing to try, the Cards have to continue giving him the opportunity.

Quick Cuts: Aramis Ramirez was back in the lineup on Tuesday, and has shown no real problem with his wrist and hand. ... Conor Jackson and Shane Victorino collided at first base during last night's game. It appeared that their heads collided and Jackson stayed down; he may have a concussion. ... Kris Benson is reportedly working on strengthening his groin. Insert your own joke here. ... Rafael Soriano will re-start his throwing program after being cleared to do so. One thought-is it safe to assume that with Soriano and Mike Gonzalez close to returns, that John Smoltz will be a closer? I'm not sure. ... How is it that Micah Owings isn't one of the pitchers batting up in the order? And at what point does a fantasy game provider start adding in his hitting? It's a reason to draft him. ... Funny to see Dodgers team physician checking out "Dancing With The Stars" dancer Christian de la Fuente on the last show. Dude, my wife watches it, and have you seen Julianne Hough? ... Yes, I was kidding about Schilling and the gyroball.

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