May 27, 2008
Under The Knife
Sturm und Drang
Fausto Carmona (30 DXL)
All the physical therapists in the world will tell you that a strain is a strain--but it's not. The mechanism of an injury is perhaps the best diagnostic tool in determining the severity of an injury. Carmona injured himself on a rapid movement on his way to cover first, likely a "plant and push" move. It's in his left (landing) leg, so the affected muscle is minimally involved except in deceleration; even then, it's only a secondary factor in the process. Carmona's long deceleration phase shouldn't suffer due to this, though the Indians are likely to be very careful with him as he comes back. Carmona does get some extra rest, though hardly the kind he wants, which will keep his innings down a bit. He's expected to miss a month; given all the factors and information I've collected, I think that's the far end of expectations. The Indians' conservatism will push things out to that edge, so the 30 DXL makes sense here.
Felix Hernandez (0 DXL)
There was a lot of sturm und drang before Hernandez even got to the mound. I'm not sure that even Clayton Kershaw is as closely watched as Hernandez, for better and for worse. The calf strain didn't appear to be a problem; watching a couple of innings of his start, I couldn't see any visible effect of the injury. Hernandez's conditioning appears to be helping him this season, so even with the continuing problem, it doesn't appear that it will harm his results or his availability. The interesting part is that his results do seem to be affected in the short term by... well, anything. His mechanics are so tenuous that even the smallest change leads to a batch of wildness before he can make an adjustment back. Of course, it helps that his "normal state" is dominant and that his "wild state" isn't that bad. The more I watch Hernandez, however, I think I see that he has no real idea what he's doing out there. Most pitchers couldn't describe their motion, and that's a good thing; you don't want to see your pitcher thinking through his motion. With Hernandez, I see a guy who just "does it" but lacks the feel for what "does it right." That the M's haven't found a way to help him understand and sense what works for him--which is a far cry from changing him--is perhaps their biggest failing.
Pedro Martinez (55 DXL)
Martinez will make one start to see where he is, and if all goes to plan, he'll be back with the Mets by early next week. Martinez is clearly not a "normal" pitcher at this stage of his career, but he's still valuable. There's no word on where the start will be, but he's on track to come back against the Giants, which is kind of like a minor league team right now. There are some whispers that Martinez will need special handling, but given the way the Mets' rotation has been handled up to this point--especially the slowed usage of Johan Santana--I'm not sure how the team could stretch out its rotation unless they slot Martinez into the "extra rest" slot that Santana has been in, and try to find a way to get Santana a couple of extra starts over the 30 he's on pace for right now.
Ryan Church (15 DXL)
Concussions are bad enough on their own, but it's the post-concussive syndrome--a random collection of symptoms of a brain still suffering from the traumatic blow--that can be devastating. Church is suffering nausea, headaches, and wooziness almost a week after the incident, and will meet with a neurologist on Tuesday to figure out what can be done. Church has pinch-hit a couple of times, so the opportunity to make a retro-active move is gone, but with any quick movements still generating these symptoms, going to the DL remains a strong possibility. Compared to what we've seen in cases like Mike Matheny and Corey Koskie, fifteen days is nothing compared to a lifetime altered by a brain injury. I anticipate Church is headed for the DL, but 15 DXL is just a guideline--no one has any idea when this will clear up.
Matt Holliday (20 DXL)
Holliday isn't the prototypical "speed player" who would have trouble with a hamstring strain; he's an athlete, not unlike Alfonso Soriano. The question now is the severity of the strain. Reports are mixed, ranging from "mild and cautious" to "severe and devastating." As usual, I expect that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, with Holliday's ability to heal and reaction to treatment providing the decisive factor. Since Holliday has been so healthy, it's tough to gauge this beyond a large range, but given the team's success with rehab over the past couple season, let's set this for just beyond the fifteen days and see what happens.
John Smoltz (45 DXL)
Rafael Soriano (60 DXL)
In some ways, the Braves bullpen hasn't been a strong spot for them in ... well, since John Smoltz was last there. Even before, Bobby Cox made do with whatever was around while John Schuerholz looked again and again for closers. Frank Wren is still holding out hope that Smoltz and Soriano, a couple of the Schuerholz-era guys, can help the pen become a source of strength. The problem is that both have had setbacks after only mild work. Smoltz had shoulder pain--which he tried to pass as "normal soreness"--while Soriano is having trouble recovering between outings. The team seems more concerned about Soriano's elbow, but one source says that's because Smoltz "isn't fixable at this stage. He's just looking for the least painful way to throw." With Mike Gonzalez in the mix soon as well, the Braves have three guys who could close, but who could also be unavailable on any given day as a result of uncertainty about their recovery periods and soreness. It's one thing to have a bullpen by committee, and quite another to have that committee meeting in the trainer's room.
Andruw Jones (40 DXL)
After testing the knee a couple of times, ones went with the Dodgers' suggestion to go ahead and have his knee 'scoped now rather than trying to play through the season. It is not, as some have called it, insurance fraud, but simply one way to try and get to the root cause of Jones' prolonged slump. Some have speculated that Jones' injury kept him from off-season workouts, leading to the weight gain and lost timing, but it's unlikely that this could have completely snuck by the Dodgers when they signed Jones in December. Instead, this is just one of those mild yet traumatic injuries that can happen, combined with a need for some kind of break in order to get Jones back on track. It's entirely possible that the Dodgers will use a longer than medically necessary rehab period to try and let Jones get his stroke back, so be aware of that. He should miss about six weeks, though there's probably two weeks of margin on either side of my initial DXL estimate.
Clayton Kershaw (0 DXL)
I'm not going to discuss Kershaw much in UTK--I hope. His mechanics are solid, he's certainly being watched closely, and he has one of the best medical staffs around to keep watch on him. What surprised me in this article isn't that Albert Pujols wasn't that impressed, it's that so many of the players seemed lost without video. It wasn't long ago that Tony Gwynn was ridiculed for his video collection; now it seems that,without it the players are lost. If that's the case, after we hear from whoever the hitting equivalent of Bob Feller tell us how things were better in his day, I think that teams will have to start making more of an effort to get video scouting done on the minors. We're already seeing more from MLB.com, including Gameday data. I'm curious to see if PitchFX will help hitters (or pitchers) in the continual struggle. For hitters, I think video is always going to be necessary, at least until we get motion capture in some future iteration of PFX. For the record, I love Kershaw's motion, though he has some wasted motion in it.
Joe Nathan (0 DXL)
Aaron Gleeman nails it here with his take on the evolution of closers and the misuse of many of them. In the modern game, we've moved from taking the best 10 pitchers and making a staff, and started finding people to slot into 12 defined roles. That's leaving a lot of people that might not be the best pitchers on teams while the rest stack up in the minors or float around the league because they do or do not fit into these pre-designed roles. What worked for one team might not work for another. The fact that teams slavishly follow contemporary fashion means they're giving up potential advantages. Experiments--like the ones with Joba Chamberlain, or enlightened moves like last season's shut-down of Clay Buchholz--are criticized (and praised) on a lack of evidence. Take a hard look at your team and tell me if they've got their best-possible pitching staff. Is there a starter at Triple-A who could be more than just an insurance policy and would be suited for long relief? Could having a couple guys who can go multiple innings buy an "extra" roster spot by shortening the pen? What we're left with is a lack of originality, a bunch of teams letting Tony La Russa fill out their roster cards by his decades-old gambit.
Quick Cuts: Jon Lester was on a very tight leash, going just over 90 pitches in his first start after the no-hitter. He looked tired from the beginning, so that was smart handling of him. ... Jorge Posada started his rehab assignment in Tampa and is expected back in about ten days, assuming his shoulder stays reasonably functional. Watch to see if minor league baserunners try to test his arm. ... Brandon Webb got knocked around, his second sub-standard start. Some are questioning if he's tired, but I see no evidence of that. Going from facing the blazing Braves to the Nats later this week should give us a better idea if something's up. ... Clint Barmes heads to the DL with a Grade II sprain of his MCL. ... Justin Verlander is smarter than many people who have been watching him. ... The Reds are pushing Edinson Volquez back. It's just a rotation readjustment, not some problem with Volquez (or Aaron Harang, who's also moving back). ... Kelvim Escobar is making progress from his shoulder injury, but it looks as if he'll come back to the pen, not the rotation. ... Chad Tracy was activated and immediately got a start. He'll be spotting in all over the corners and could be a valuable part-timer for Bob Melvin. ... The Rockies are hoping Garrett Atkins' stiff neck clears up. The DL isn't an option at this stage, but they're not sure exactly when he'll be back, either. ... David Eckstein won't start full-time now that he's off the DL. ... Jay Bruce is finally coming up. ... Twitter? @injuryexpert