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May 28, 2008

Under The Knife

Piggyback Attack

by Will Carroll

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Gary Sheffield (15 DXL)
A spasm was evidently more than just a spasm, and the strained oblique, combined with his ongoing shoulder issue, was enough to push Sheffield to the DL. The oblique strain is significant enough to hold him out a while, but it's also an opportunity for the Tigers to reap the same sort of benefit that the Dodgers are hoping Andruw Jones gets from rehabbing his knee. For Sheffield, it's a chance to rest, then rebuild, and most importantly get refocused. Sheffield's shoulder and its effect on his swing is the biggest long-term issue here, as the continuing limitations have been frustrating enough for the proud Sheffield to consider retirement. For now, they'll give him some rest to make sure that the oblique strain doesn't become a bigger issue before seeing what they can do to get him back to some level of production in hopes he can help this team battle back from their early-season struggles.

Eric Byrnes (15 DXL)
The D'backs aren't quite to the point where they can just coast, but pushing Byrnes to the DL shows that they're already thinking ahead. Byrnes is signed long-term, and historically drops off in the second half. The team was seeing a loss in production and decided that the rest would do him some good. With plenty of fill-ins available, the team is giving Byrnes a bit of a rest to make sure that his speed isn't affected, and to give him a bit of a rest as well. The downside of the timing is that Justin Upton is in an extended slump right now. I'd expect Byrnes to be back at the minimum without any long-term effects beyond a slight reduction in his stolen base totals.

Ryan Zimmerman (0 DXL)
There's a rumor that Zimmerman has some structural damage in his left shoulder, but as of yet there's no fire to go with the smoke. Zimmerman initially injured himself on a head-first slide over a week ago, and since then, he's been showing almost no power. It's the non-throwing shoulder, but some sources say that Zimmerman it's affecting his fielding. "He's not as quick to the left. I'm not sure if there's a problem or if he's just hesitating," noted one observer. Sources insist that the problem is minor and that some extra days of rest will help him, something Manny Acta is trying to do by scheduling days off for Zimmerman after offdays and the like. In the short term it's worth keeping an eye on, especially his power numbers. Keep in mind that the Nats have been pretty bad at keeping lingering injuries like this from getting worse.

Travis Hafner (5 DXL)
The Indians are holding Hafner out of the lineup for a couple of days in the hope that rest and treatment will clear up some of what's been affecting Hafner this season. The team already has an offday on Thursday, so they're essentially holding him out for four days for something they're trying to minimize as just a "flare up." The problem is that people have been looking for any excuse for Hafner's performance over the early part of this season; the alternative is that Hafner has lost it and lost it quickly. He's always been a bit injury-prone, but I'm curious if Hafner might not just be the hitting equivalent of a Sandy Koufax-a player with a really high peak but not much longevity. That PECOTA projection is looking pretty scary right now, and it may take more than just a couple of days off to let us know whether the shoulder is the real culprit. Don't be surprised to see a DL move if the Indians still have questions about Hafner's health by the weekend.

Mark Kotsay (15 DXL)
It's almost June and Kotsay is only just now making his first UTK appearance of the season. That's not bad for him, and says something about the Braves medical staff. Kotsay had some severe back spasms earlier this week, and they haven't completely cleared up yet. With his history of back problems and some uncertainty of how his surgically-repaired back will handle the current problem, the Braves are leaning towards putting Kotsay on the DL, and thereby playing it very safe with a guy who's been a solid contributor despite his famous fragility. The Braves don't have a great option behind him, so the current thinking is that they can make it through a short DL stint better than they could deal with an extended absence if this problem were to get worse. Kotsay's never going to be durable, but the Braves are doing well to keep him useful.

Jeff Keppinger (30 DXL)
For those of you who didn't listen and dropped Keppinger because you were thinking he'd be out for an extended period, this is your chance to grab him back. He's still a couple of weeks (and a brief rehab assignment) away from returning, so he's on the low end of expectations, but Keppinger is already walking without a limp and ready to run. He could even be cleared for 'baseball activities' as soon as this weekend. The Reds are trying to find some sort of protective brace for him to wear through rehab, perhaps a football-style kneepad, to help keep his knee healthy in the event of another errant foul. Whatever solution they hit upon, you can expect Keppinger back sometime around mid-June, and able to play without any significant effect on his game.

Pedro Martinez (60 DXL)
The announcement that Martinez's rehab start would come against Vero Beach against last year's top pick David Price might seem like a gimmick, but the Mets know that a motivated Pedro is the one they want around. While he's still not happy about adding mileage to his arm in High-A, sources say that he is excited by what he knows will be a showcase. If all goes well and Martinez hits his pitch limit, his next start will be for the big club, and while he'd be limited again, the Mets won't be scared of using Martinez as they try to rebuild their season. The only question is how far into games Martinez will go, and how that will tax the Mets pen. I wouldn't wait to get him back in my roster-and yes, I have him.

Ian Kennedy (15 DXL)
Things have gone from bad to worse for Kennedy. The young pitcher is an object lesson right now in how it's difficult to pin your hopes on young pitching, no matter how talented it is. A strained lat on his pitching side will push him to the DL, and likely slide Joba Chamberlain into his rotation slot, though replacing one with the other was already a likely decision, even before the injury. Kennedy could end up back in Scranton or pushed into the unfamiliar role as a tandem reliever. (More on this below.) The lat is a large muscle, and heals relatively well assuming it's not a deep-gapping strain, something that seems unlikely here. Given the Yankees' circumstances, including an ineffective bullpen, I think they will play it safe and simply DL Kennedy.

Joba Chamberlain (0 DXL)
The Yankees will piggyback Chamberlain with a tandem reliever once he's ready to shift over to a starting role, finally proving that the plan can work above A-ball. There's really no difference between throwing 55 pitches in middle innings and 55 at the start of the game; you can put any sort of number in there, and as long as you're short of a complete game, pitching is pitching. I ranted a bit about this yesterday in regards to selecting role fillers rather than the best pitchers, but this use of Chamberlain and another pitcher (perhaps Kennedy, once he's healthy) shows that it's usually smarter to get the best talent in the room first, and then let the roles sort themselves out. Sure, there are certain pitchers that can't succeed in certain roles. I wondered for years why Kerry Wood couldn't close, and was told over and over that he couldn't warm up fast enough, but desperation gets things done. Of course, a good plan works pretty well too. I didn't think the Yanks could stick to plan with Chamberlain, so I'm tipping my cap to them for actually doing so. Now they just have to hope everything around it works, because the second-guessers who'd rather do things by the book already have their knives sharpened.

Quick Cuts: With Ryan Church likely headed to the DL, I couldn't answer one question and couldn't get the answer from a team: Does any MLB team use the ImPACT system in use by the NFL to measure concussion? I'm trying to get in touch with Elliott Pellman, the NFL and MLB consulting physician. ... Nice line for a debut. This Jay Bruce kid might work out. ... Pat Burrell's stiff neck isn't considered serious, though he could miss more than just Tuesday's game while the issue clears up. ... Jason Schmidt is hitting 92 on the gun? That's a good sign from his latest rehab outing ... Andruw Jones had successful knee surgery Tuesday and will begin rehab immediately. ... Gordon Beckham regularly gets compared to Khalil Greene. I don't think they mean the version we've seen on the field recently in San Diego. And to answer many of you, no, there's no injury to explain it. ... Rocco Baldelli took batting practice on Tuesday and could get some playing time in extended spring training, though no one, including Baldelli, is putting a timetable on this. ... Jake Westbrook comes off of the DL to take Fausto Carmona's slot. ... The Braves are really walking wounded right now.

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