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May 29, 2008

Under The Knife

Head Trauma

by Will Carroll

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Ryan Church (10 DXL)
Alan Schwarz has done an amazing job since I took him under my wing and let him write the foreword for The Juice. I'm kidding--I was honored when he first spoke to me a few years back, even moreso that he would consider doing something like that for me. Some of his best work of late has been in addressing the concussion issue in football for the New York Times. He is well-qualified to address Church;s situation; moreover, brings in the two pre-eminent researchers in the field. Drs. Collins and Cantu are the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of head injuries, and if they're in agreement on Church's prognosis, I don't know who will disagree. I like to think that the Mets--a smart team with a quality medical staff--have information we don't have, but with a brain injury, I'd hope everyone is erring on the side of caution. The article should give everyone pause, especially the Mets, and ends on a heartbreakingly strong note. It's worth reading, and more importantly worth remembering. (One other note: I asked about the ImPACT system and its use in baseball today. I could only confirm that one team was using it--surprise, it's the Red Sox--though several other teams are using another protocol to manage concussions.)

Daisuke Matsuzaka (7 DXL)
Uh-oh. A fatigued shoulder on a pitcher known for his workload? That doesn't sound good, but how do the facts match up for Matsuzaka? Reports say that Matsuzaka's shoulder "compared favorably" to his baseline, but that's a very broad and intentionally vague statement. What's the definition of "favorably, 80 percent? Fifty percent? It's a broad range. More telling is the MRI scheduled for Friday. No, it's not that he's having an MRI, but that he's having to wait more than 48 hours. That indicates some swelling, and that tells us that Matsuzaka isn't going to make even a delayed throw day; his next start is all but out of the question. So with that out of the way, sources are telling me that this isn't that bad--not good mind you, but not devastating. The Sox are very cautious with pitchers, but they have some depth and a favorable upcoming schedule to work with. They have a lot invested in Matsuzaka, so expect a very conservative play here, but nothing more than conservatism. Why seven on the DXL? It's almost assuredly one start, or five days, and I'm hedging my bet on the second start.

Troy Percival (15 DXL)
It did not look good when Troy Percival crumpled, just one out away from a save. His leg has been troubling him for a while, and his "cowboy up" act that worked for a week finally gave out. There's some question as to whether this was an injury that involves significant damage, though no one is questioning the pain. Percival will have further tests on Thursday; at a minimum, he's going to miss a week. The Rays are often 'slow' to DL players, electing to make sure that their crack medical staff can't get them back earlier; there's certainly enough depth in their pen to wait a few days. The imaging could change all that. Sources tell me that the Rays expect to DL him, putting the ball in the hands of Dan Wheeler and Al Reyes at the end of games, but that the respect everyone has for "Percy" is leading them to wait on the results first. You should be planning ahead as well.

Pedro Martinez (60 DXL)
David Price (0 DXL)
Pedro was good, but Price was better. At least on Wednesday, that's the story from Port St. Lucie. Martinez went six innings on 82 pitches, hitting a bit of a wall in the fourth but battling through; one observer said it was "the best thing about his outing. He was really pitching." Price, making just his second start as a pro, was flat-out dominating, and looks to tear through the FSL. Martinez has nothing left to prove in the minors and will make his next start for the Mets early next week, though the exact date is yet to be determined. Price doesn't seem to have much left to prove either, though his journey to Tampa is going to take a more circuitous route than I-4.

Joel Pineiro (15 DXL)
The Cardinals pushed Pineiro to the DL when his groin strain got bad enough that it was clear he wasn't going to be able to make his next start. He had already been skipped, but the retro move means he could be back as early as next week. No one seems overly concerned about him, so this was a simple roster move necessitated by the team's construction. Mike Parisi will shift over to take the start on Pineiro's next turn while Dave Duncan does a bit of rotation juggling to keep things on track next week. The back end of the Cards' rotation is a bit mix-and-match anyway, so this isn't a significant problem for them. The Cards, interestingly, have one of the most flexible pens around, even with Jason Isringhausen out, and could do a "pen start" if needed.

Jorge Posada (30 DXL)
There's a gentleman's agreement that, in extended spring training games, conditions are controlled. That means that teams won't run on Jorge Posada as he rehabs his shoulder, or at least until the Yankees give them the okay to test him. I guess that's the sporting thing to do, but I don't understand how this really helps. No one questions that Posada can squat and catch a ball. There really hasn't been much question about his bat's potency, as a 3-for-6 performance showed in his first game back. He'll turn it loose this weekend, testing the shoulder on throws, but there are going to be some "common sense" limitations on him, according to sources. "Guys are going to run," says one advance scout I spoke with about the situation, "which makes him, what, Mike Piazza?" It's an apt comparison, and makes me wonder (again) how a team could try and control the running game with a catcher who has no arm. I said "no arm" in the baseball sense, but two front office types both called it the "Def Leppard scenario," so I'm not the only one thinking this way. Some combination of more throws to first, more pitchouts, and an increased focus on keeping stealing threats off the bases seems to be current thinking, but I'm curious how you might do it. Any thoughts? Drop me an email.

Travis Hafner (0 DXL)
As Hafner continues to struggle, it's harder to balance the "he has to be injured" and the "PECOTA says he's got old player skills" schools of thought. While he does have a problematic shoulder that requires constant maintenance and the occasional measure--like this week's cortisone injection--he's always had that, even when he was hitting. The hint from Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff that Hafner has "chronic changes" in the shoulder points to arthritis and impingement, which could certainly explain the occasional flareups. The impingement could be treated surgically, though Hafner would miss an extended period of time if that route was taken. Sources don't seem too upbeat about Hafner, which raises the question of what changed? If there's no structural damage, as Soloff said, and the shoulder is degenerating, then the balance of "injured" and "old skills" is going to be moot in a hurry.

Rafael Furcal (15 DXL)
Jeff Kent (5 DXL)
A lot of you have asked for more information on Furcal, because he's been out far longer than expected with his back problem. Like you, I've been wondering why this has been extended, but I don't have the answer. Usually, I can get to someone with enough information to help me guide you, though thus far on this one, I haven't been able to do so. The most we know is that Furcal is in a holding pattern and headed to see Dr. Robert Watkins, one of the top back specialists around. With Kent out for a couple of days with back spasms, and Tony Abreu done for the year, the Dodgers are really feeling the pinch in the infield. Given how well Furcal was playing, it makes it even tougher. I'll continue to work on this to try and get more information and more context.

Quick Cuts: The less said about Carlos Guillen, the better. In regards to his problems, I mean. ... Ryan Doumit could be back next week if a plastic splint on his glove hand allows him to catch. ... Howie Kendrick has re-started his rehab assignment and should be back in about a week. ... Joba Chamberlain threw 55 pitches Wednesday night. Granted, almost half of them came in the pen, but they're pitches. He'll be allowed as much as 75 next time out, which means that he should be starting and that the batters should be taking. ... Gregg Zaun hits the DL with what's called a "mild elbow strain" by the Jays. ... It wasn't blisters, as initially rumored, but a finger tendon issue that pushed Indians prospect Adam Miller to have surgery. He's out for about two months. ... I'll have more on this in tomorrow's UTK Wrap.

Related Content:  Back,  Shoulder

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