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June 11, 2008

Under The Knife

Instant Gratification

by Will Carroll

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The New York Feed is locked down now-RSVPs aren't necessary, but drop me a line if you could. We'll meet at Foley's, a bar rich in baseball tradition, at 8 p.m. on June 30th and go 'til... until we cease going! We'll have a lot of guests from MLB.com, beat writers, our pal Will Leitch is going to try to make it, and hopefully many of you. Hope to see you there. Cmon, it's my birthday!

Albert Pujols (15 DXL)
Adam Wainwright (20 DXL)
Less than ten minutes after Pujols left the field, a reader emailed, asking "I was wondering if you saw Albert's calf injury? I was wondering what you thought worst-case scenario, best-case scenario, and most likely scenario are. It looked pretty bad to me, but I'm not very familiar with calf injuries." Jay Jaffe suggested that the worst-case scenario was "that they were going to douse him with whiskey and tell him to bite down on a fungo bat while Chris Duncan performed a mid-inning amputation just below the knee. Seriously, you don't want that guy anywhere near the bone saw." I don't think it was quite that bad, though I think I heard Will Leitch whimpering from here. The early word on this is that Pujols was "just" cramping, though it looked bad. The team is leaning towards putting him on the DL, at least according to the game wrap on MLB.com. Coming a week after the original instance, this reads a lot like Alex Rodriguez's injury earlier this season-a mild strain exacerbated by later effort. It's a tough break for a team that's been taking lots of those lately. There's still no official word on the severity of Wainwright's finger injury, but it looks as if the strain isn't significant. If it was a rupture, he'd already be headed for surgery. While that's not completely out of the question now-it could end up the conservative path Cards fans wrongly railed against with Chris Carpenter-it's something of a positive. Without more information, it's tough to get a solid read, so we'll say 20 DXL for now and keep watching for more details.

John Smoltz (120 DXL)
Smoltz had his shoulder surgery on Tuesday, and we know more, but not enough to get a clear picture as to what is in his future. The team said his labrum was repaired, but despite Bobby Cox saying the damage was extensive, we don't know whether there was further damage. I was listening for any rotator cuff involvement or discussion of how the surgery was performed, but it sounds as if it was a 'scope. That's a positive sign and could mean that the damage wasn't as extensive outside the labrum. It's also possible that Jim Andrews went in with a plan to fix as much as he could with as minimal a surgery as possible, giving Smoltz the full knowledge of the damage while maintaining some chance of a comeback. Smoltz showed he could pitch effectively through this injury, he just couldn't recover between outings. All we know now is that the final chapter hasn't been written yet. As Smoltz himself might say, it's a comma, not a period.

Rafael Furcal (45 DXL)
By the time Furcal comes back, people may have forgotten what a hot streak he was on. The back injury that seemed minor continues to produce symptoms and evade treatment. The latest word from the Dodgers is that Furcal will need another two weeks before resuming baseball activities, which is disappointing to those that were hoping to have him back in the lineup by mid-month. With the time off, Furcal will likely need a rehab assignment to get his swing back, pushing his return back towards the start of July-and that's the best-case scenario. The exact nature of the problem still hasn't leaked out, with more than a month already lost, but this has to be more than just back spasms. That means the recurrence risk is up, especially in the longer term, not something a guy in his walk year wants on the resumé.

Matt Holliday (15 DXL)
Holliday came off of the DL last night and put up and oh-fer, but do players that come back from injuries in the minimum show any tendencies that slower-healing players do not? A look at both the question in the larger sense and in the specifici instance of Holliday's hamstring injury appears to be a double "no." A minimum return seems to indicate a fully-healed player rather than a rush back to the lineup or any larger trend on healing. In fact, a quick return might actually tell us more about the team. Several teams showed a quick trigger with putting players on the DL, then saw players coming off at the minimum. That could indicate that they're losing more days with the DL than playing short a man; if Holliday, for example, could have come back at 12 days rather than 15 days, there is some lost value, though its a tougher equation past a week than most managers are willing to take. Holliday shouldn't have much problem in returning, but at least his injury brought up some interesting questions.

Josh Johnson (100 DXL)
Is 11 months too soon? That's the question many asked when news came out of Johnson's progress from Tommy John surgery. Johnson threw against live competition in extended spring training on Monday, and the results have the Marlins believing that he could be in their rotation by the All Star break. The team has him on a rehab schedule that will have him pitching on normal rest, making a couple of stops through their minor league system, and ending with his return to the big league club in early July. It's a quick schedule, but not overly so; B.J. Ryan returned much more quickly, and something just south of 12 months seems to be the point where recovery times are heading. Figuring out the "normal" timing is difficult with the offseason intruding-could a player have come back in January?-but Johnson's results prove that it's not "too soon." Don't be surprised if there are no setbacks, though in one other interesting note from the database, it's usually easier for someone who's injury was the result of overuse to come back compared to someone trying to overcome major mechanical issues.

Phil Hughes (90 DXL)
Kyle Farnsworth (5 DXL)
While Yankees fans focus on Joba Chamberlain's presence in the rotation and absence from the pen, those two areas are seeing some other changes. Hughes is making some progress with his rib fracture and could begin throwing in the next few weeks. Since this isn't an arm problem, once he clears the bone scan, the issue will be stamina and touch rather than making sure he's healthy. That should make his return a quick one, especially if the Yankees use Hughes in something similar to the way that they transitioned Chamberlain. Rather than "wasting" starts in the minors, why couldn't Hughes make shorter outings in the Bronx? Chamberlain's absence has pushed Joe Girardi's use of the remaining effective pieces at his disposal, but Farnsworth's arm hasn't responded, and he's out with some biceps tendonitis. It's easy to blame usage, but the pattern hasn't really changed, he's just doing it in different situations. Looking one section up might remind us that Girardi had some issues with pitchers in Florida, but this just looks like one of those sore-arm situations that the team is hoping a spot of rest will clear up.

Adam Dunn (0 DXL)
"General soreness" is a term that no one really likes to hear; the vagueness just bothers people for some reason. It's the reason that the Reds are using to explain what's up with Adam Dunn, and no one outside the clubhouse seems to know what the problem is. The Reds have trended to this, saying the same thing about Ken Griffey Jr., when it ended up being the case that his knee was the problem. Dusty Baker may think it's clever or some tactical advantage, but it's pretty easy to figure out that Dunn's issue is his shoulder. Sources tell me that Dunn is dealing with "some sort of '-itis,'" a swelling like tendonitis or bursitis that's being treated with anti-inflammatories and some restrictions. It's affecting him more on throws than hitting, so he's going to continue to play through this while Baker continues to be oblique.

Brandon Morrow (5 DXL)
Before we talk about Morrow's garden-variety sore shoulder, let's think about reliever usage and how little we know. We know that a high workload is 80 max-effort innings over a period of a couple of years, with names like Eric Gagne, Octavio Dotel, Danny Graves, Scott Sullivan, and Keith Foulke dotting a landscape where only Braden Looper and Salomon Torres have escaped. (I'm not sure what to think about Scot Shields, the last of the eight men to accomplish the [80 IP x3] milestone.) This, of course, means nothing for Morrow, who's come up sore due to some tendinitis in his shoulder. It's a reminder of how little we know about reliever usage and how individuated the results of pitching are. Morrow is sui generis in his handling, for better or worse, and making any assumption on him is dangerous.

Kelvim Escobar (120 DXL)
Throwing off of a mound is a big step for a guy who looked like he might have done that for the last time earlier this season. Escobar isn't close to a return, but he's making progress with his shoulder issues. Thirty pitches at "half speed" is a big step, and Escobar is still hoping to come back to the Angels and help their bullpen this season. Recovery is the major issue, but the Angels are encouraged, and as he's a guy who's had success out of the pen in the past, Escobar could be a true source of relief if he's able to come back in the second half, even if all he's able to do is put up some credible innings to take some of the workload off of the hard-working Shields/Speier tandem.

Quick Cuts: Tom Glavine is headed back onto the DL with a sore elbow, a recurrence of his previous problem. We'll have more on this tomorrow. ... Jake Peavy is scheduled to start tomorrow, but he will be on a pitch limit. ... Milton Bradley left Tuesday's game; late reports have it as a quad cramp. ... BP Reader Steve Palazzolo was promoted to Triple-A Fresno. If you're in the area, go cheer on one of the good guys. If you're a Giants fan, you might have your Brian Bannister, albeit as a 6'10" reliever. ... Knuckler alert! Eddie Bonine has one and is expected to replace Dontrelle Willis in the Tigers rotation. He only mixes the knuckler, so he's not the next torch carrier for the flutterball. ... Rick Ankiel was back in the lineup. His infected knee looks to have been just that.

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

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