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May 13, 2008

Under The Knife

Dirty Hurt

by Will Carroll

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Mark Teixeira (3 DXL)
On the list of "things not to do in a contract year," getting a case of back spasms is in the top ten. Teixeira suffered the problem in the first game of a doubleheader in an odd manner: he told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that he felt it first when covering the bag. Most notably, he said that "it felt like he was on artificial turf." That the Pirates would be keeping the turf very hard over there goes against all logic, considering the injury problems of Adam LaRoche-or does it actually help explain things? Greg Norton, who filled in for Teixeira, also said the surface was hard. I asked a source with the Pirates about the surface there, and he confirmed it: "it's like concrete." We'll need to take this into account, as well as note it in case anyone else has problems after playing there in the future. If there aren't changes made, teams might have to consider dealing with playing at PNC differently, giving some guys with knee and back problems some days off there. I'll set Teixeira at a low three days expected, but he could be back as early as today.

Rafael Furcal (20 DXL)
The Dodgers must be looking across town to see how the Angels tend to deal with the DL. If so, the lesson took and makes perfect sense in the case of Furcal. Much as we talked about recently with Chone Figgins, the Dodgers gave Furcal time to heal up in hopes he could come back in less than 15 days. Instead, when the back didn't free up, they found a mild strain in his sacroiliac joint. Furcal had a cortisone injection into the area in hopes that it would help. This injury is substantially similar to the one he had at the end of last season, so as a recurrence, he's likely to take a bit longer to come back, and will have a higher risk of another episode in the future. Now that it has been diagnosed, he'll be getting consistent maintenance work, and I don't think it will be a significant drag on him once the acute pain and tightness clears.

Alex Rodriguez (15 DXL)
"Days Expected Lost" seems like something that's self-explanatory, but as a new metric, I'm continuing to explain it and try to show you how to get to the "at a glance" level of comfort with it. One thing it's designed to do is to note when players take longer than expected to heal. While it can change when there's new information about an injury, such as with Furcal above, it doesn't change just because a player is taking longer to come back. Rodriguez is a case in point, with the Yankees handling his recovery from a quad strain very conservatively. The injury itself doesn't appear to be any worse than what was initially thought; it's the plan that's shifted. He'll miss the Subway Series and now has next Tuesday's game with the Orioles as his targeted return.

Luis Castillo (3 DXL)
Four-year deals for aging speed guys with leg problems go on the list of things that general managers won't do much of in the future, but even Omar Minaya makes mistakes. One exceptionally negative indicator of future problems is getting hurt doing things that could be done without concern a short time ago. When Castillo strained his quad legging out a triple, red flags should have been waving despite the mild nature of the strain. He'll only miss a couple days, but as New Yorkers have learned, rushing back from even a mild strain can quickly turn into a bigger problem. One thing to keep in mind here is that Minaya understands that the Mets can afford to eat a contract, and if you consider the Mets' chances of winning a World Series, a de facto frontloading of value on Castillo's deal would make eating the back half a bit more palatable.

Jason LaRue (3 DXL)
Normally, an injury to Jason LaRue would mean that Yadier Molina would go a couple of games without a rest. After Molina's amazing meltdown on Monday, though, he could be facing a suspension, and that makes LaRue's sprained left knee a bit more of an issue. Molina will assuredly appeal, hoping to give LaRue the time to heal up and be ready to take over for a couple games in a row. The injury, suffered when Bill Hall rolled over LaRue on a play at the plate, isn't considered that serious in itself, and by the time the suspension is sorted out, he'll likely be back and ready to go. If not, catcher of the future Bryan Anderson could get a quick cup of coffee.

Doug Davis (30 DXL)
I was working a trade in one of my fantasy leagues, trying to get Max Scherzer on the cheap after the D'backs announced that he'd shift to the bullpen once Davis was back from the DL. It didn't get close; I offered Dustin McGowan and he wanted Josh Hamilton. Still, Scherzer's value, at least in the short term, will take a hit when Davis comes back. Davis had a rehab start on Monday that went OK, and he'll follow that up with another over the weekend. If he reaches his 80-pitch goal without any issues, he'll slot back in for the D'backs rotation for his next outing. It's not so much a knock on Scherzer as a good way for them to limit his innings, as well as an efficient use of resources for the streaking Snakes. It's great to see Davis both cancer-free and so quickly back to level.

Howie Kendrick (15 DXL)
Getting injury information from some teams is like asking the NSA for Osama bin Laden's phone records, but others are getting to the point where it's almost as transparent as the NFL draft. The Angels trend more towards transparency, except recently in Kendrick's case. At least it seems that way, though I'm beginning to think that the Angels are like me and try not to say anything when there's nothing new to add. Out since mid-April with a hamstring strain, Kendrick continues to have problems. The last report had Kendrick tearing loose some scar tissue, though this is normal with a chronically strained hamstring rather than the acute strain Kendrick suffered. He continues treatment and physical therapy with the hope of loosening it up and getting him back on a rehab assignment. We'll have to treat Kendrick's hammies as a chronic problem going forward. Kendrick is well past his DXL here and there's no timetable on his return.

Delmon Young (1 DXL)
Some trades work out for both teams, and even a minor injury to Young-rolling his ankle on the basepaths-isn't enough to change my mind about the deal centered on Young and Matt Garza. Young is not only a solid young player, he's durable despite this recent minor injury. He's never going to lead the league in walks, but the Twins are extremely happy with what they've seen. He's never going to be Torii Hunter in any sense, but that doesn't matter; we shouldn't be asking Young to be anything other than himself. He should be back in the lineup today, quick enough that the mild sprain shouldn't derails what's been a very hot hitting spell recently.

Matt Garza (0 DXL)
Tommy Rancel, who writes for Outs Per Swing, nailed it in an email: "Ever since he found his arm in that third inning against Boston he's been lights out." Sometimes, pitching is as simple as getting comfortable. After coming back from radial nerve irritation, Garza took a bit to feel not only comfortable and confident, but pitching coach Jim Hickey convinced him that he could let it go. That worked, and since then Garza has been what the Rays thought they were getting when they traded Delmon Young away. Even as good as the Rays have been this season, getting both Garza and Scott Kazmir into that zone--and Kaz doesn't look like he's quite there-is the key to keeping them good.

Freddy Garcia (90 DXL)
Ken Davidoff breaks down how Freddy Garcia went from a scrapheap extra to hottest pitcher on the market. The problem is that the switch is one of perception, based on equal parts desperation and fiction. A healthy Garcia is an upgrade for some teams, but he's only an upgrade if he's back to his previous levels. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that his shoulder has recovered enough to the point where he'll be the guy that helped the White Sox win a World Series, or even back to the simply useful version of himself that he was in previous stops. Garcia turns 33 soon, as Davidoff notes, and he's been in decline long enough that it's going to take a lot to convince me that he's any better than someone like Bartolo Colon (who is just now throwing again in the Boston farm system) or Jon Lieber. That throwing session that will happen for scouts "sometime soon" is going to be the key. I can only hope your fantasy team isn't quite as desperate as some real teams seem to be.

Quick Cuts: Bronson Arroyo will work on three days' rest after going 115 pitches in his last start. Some are suggesting this could be the start of something with the Reds, who talked about a four-man rotation a few years and a few GMs ago. I don't see Dusty Baker doing it or this rotation being the right group to try it with. ... Dontrelle Willis had a solid rehab start on Monday, going almost 80 pitches. He'll have one more this weekend before coming back to the Tigers rotation. ... Ben Zobrist should come back for the Rays in a utility role, but the Rays are going to have some tough roster decisions. ... Dave Van Dyck had it first, but sources confirmed to me that the Cubs are working to sign Jim Edmonds. One told me "at worst, it's a bad couple of weeks that buys some time for [Felix] Pie to go to Iowa and salvage himself." ... Eric Chavez will start his rehab assignment on Thursday at Triple-A Sacramento. ... Something looked very different about Barry Zito last night; the results were certainly different. I'll go back and watch the game today on MLB.tv and report back. What did you see?

Related Content:  A's,  Back,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury,  Quad-a

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