June 23, 2008
Under The Knife
Carlos Zambrano (15 DXL)
I'm going to take the odd position (for me) of defending the Cubs. Yes, they have in the past been less than transparent about the processes they employ in dealing with injuries. I'll take Jim Hendry at his word that he has given as much information as he has had, though I'll admit that the results we've seen haven't matched up with that assertion. I'll even state, for the record, that I know some of his players have held back information from the team in the past, something Hendry shouldn't be held accountable for today. So when Carlos Zambrano comes out of his imaging with the diagnosis of a mild strain, I'll accept that for now, and watch for more information. If Zambrano does just have a small strain, we'll assume it's to the rotator cuff, due to the way he dropped his arm over the last two innings of his start. I can't figure out why it started acting up, but I do think that this has been an ongoing problem, one that reaches back to mid-May and predates Zambrano's 130-pitch outing. It wouldn't surprise me if that high-count outing was Lou Piniella's test of Zambrano, who was insisting he was fine despite some symptoms. One point of interest is that when Zambrano was heading back to Chicago, word was that he was going to have an arthrogram, a procedure in which dye or air is injected into the joint space to provide a better visual of soft tissue structures like the labrum. When the test results were announced, they were given as a simple MRI. This could be a simple use of "MRI"-as either a generic term, or a change in what the doctors asked for-but I don't know why they wouldn't have done what appears to be the more specific test given the symptoms. This is definitely one to follow closely. I have a feeling it will go something beyond the minimum, even with Zambrano upset at being placed on the DL.
Alfonso Soriano (30 DXL)
If Cubs fans don't consider an ace hitting the DL to be good news, then they did get some of that with the results of the latest x-ray on Soriano's hand. The bone is healing up nicely, and he should be taking batting practice soon. With the cushion they have in the division, the Cubs are trying to pull back on the reins a bit to slow Soriano down and make sure that he doesn't have a setback. The setback would be a re-break, which would return them to square one, so the downside here is apparent. Soriano is cleared to start baseball activities, but don't expect to see him next week (as he's pushing for), even though he is ahead of his scheduled return at the All-Star break. Live batting practice will be the best sign we'll have, so watch for that. On the plus side, the rest he's getting is reportedly helping his legs as well, with the team able to work a bit on his flexibility during the downtime.
Albert Pujols (20 DXL)
Speaking of quick healers and motivated players, it's going to be very tough for the Cards to hold Pujols back. It's important that he's both fully healthy-- if indeed that phrase can be employed here--and that they use this downtime to address some of the more chronic or interrelated things that have been problematic for the slugger. Pujols' feet and calves have been constant issues, and getting those corrected, or at least minimized, is worth some lost time. I still haven't been able to figure out if Pujols has orthotics or custom-fit shoes to assist with the problems, though I've been hoping one of the press horde would peek into his locker, McGwire-style, without the attendant confrontation or controversy. Recurrence is the biggest risk for Pujols, and while Cards fans will be glad to see him back early, they won't be comfortable holding their collective breath and hoping during those extra few games.
Shaun Marcum (15 DXL)
Jon Lester? No. Roy Halladay? No. Felix Hernandez? No. I could let you keep guessing all day and very few of you would pick Shaun Marcum as one of the best pitchers in the AL this season, behind only Cliff Lee on the AL leaderboard for VORP. Few are talking about Marcum as an All-Star, let alone as the All-Star starter for the AL, but now with this injury the point is moot, and the Jays could be facing bad news. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said that Marcum had been pitching through soreness, and now that he's headed to Birmingham, it doesn't look good. If there's any positive here, it's that he didn't lose control during his period of soreness. The Jays aren't saying what changed, but we'll have to watch closely to see whether something snapped, or if the Jays are just protecting one of the few things that's gone right for them this season. The DXL is preliminary and is likely to increase.
Ian Snell (15 DXL)
While teams around baseball change managers, it's important to note that bad management seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Carlos Zambrano may have survived Dusty Baker, but the workload that broke Mark Prior and Kerry Wood did some level of damage to Zambrano as well. Ian Snell may well carry some of the same type of damage after being similarly overworked. His usage wasn't as egregious as the end-of-season slagging Tom Gorzelanny is still struggling with, but when Snell came up with a sore elbow, the short but hard-throwing pitcher must have been thinking a bit of Jim Colborn. Snell is headed for an MRI after he left his weekend start with soreness and mild inflammation, and is likely headed for the DL. The severity is still unknown at this point, so the 15 DXL up there is very fluid.
Tom Glavine (100 DXL)
Is it a measure of his greatness that while Tom Glavine and John Smoltz are facing the end of their careers with injury, Greg Maddux is just plugging along? (PECOTA thinks he could go another couple of years.) Glavine's been more healthy than Smoltz, to be sure, but news that his flexor tendon is fraying at the origin is about as bad as it gets given this stage of his career. Glavine will shut things down for two weeks in hopes that rest and treatment will heal up the injury, but sources tell me that he's resigned to calling it a season and likely a career if there's any setback, or if it doesn't heal up. The Braves are adjusting now, but at best, Glavine won't be back until after the All-Star break. I'm just not expecting it to happen.
Chris Young (60 DXL)
Young is making progress towards returning to the mound, just not in the fashion you'd expect. Young is working on building up his arm strength so that the time off for surgery to fixate the bones inside his nose won't end up costing him much time. Young made it through a short 40-pitch pen session ahead of surgery next week. Young's only problem on the mound was with breathing, which should be corrected during surgery. The expectation is that Young will miss about ten days as the bones heal up after surgery and get right back on the mound. That would put his return somewhere in late July. Stamina is the short-term concern, and the reason he's working on arm strength now. Long-term, it doesn't look as if there will be any problems here.
Nick Johnson (60 DXL)
David Ortiz (45 DXL)
The Nats are sending Johnson to the Mayo Clinic to figure out why he's healing so slowly, but it's Red Sox fans that are watching especially closely. Remember that Johnson's wrist injury is nearly identical to the one that David Ortiz is dealing with now. While Ortiz is coming along, the concept that this injury lingers has to be noted, though with Johnson's slow-healing injury history, it's more a concern that he's dealing more with a Rocco Baldelli-style underlying issue, rather than a straight comp to Ortiz. Johnson will get the second opinion in hopes of discerning when he'll return and why he's been so slow to heal. Look for him to be back just after the All-Star break, which is about the time we should expect to see Ortiz.
Jeff Keppinger (45 DXL)
Know how the Cubs trot out the goat every once in a while, trying to remove "the curse"? I'm not sure what the Reds should do about the shortstop position, but they should hurry up and do it. After Jolbert Cabrera went down with a dislocated finger, the Reds were forced to bring Keppinger back ahead of schedule. Keppinger was still adjusting to playing short at Triple-A while wearing a bulky knee brace in his first game back, so he's not 100 percent. It wasn't an extreme rush job, so as long as Keppinger can hit and doesn't foul another ball off his knee, he should be fine in the longer term. Yes, I know "curse" isn't very scientific, but at some point, lack of a better explanation can be more easily summed up as superstition, rather than as a sequence of unlikely coincidence. The Reds have enough problems without the supernatural butting in.
Quick Cuts: Rest in peace, George Carlin. ... Chipper Jones continues to struggle with a recurrent quad strain. Without significant rest, he's likely to be bothered by it on an ongoing basis, although he appears to be able to hit through it. ... Andruw Jones is just resuming baseball activities. Watch for the Dodgers to use his rehab as time to shake up his swing as well. ... Kaz Matsui is day-to-day with a hamstring strain, a problem for a speed player with no other value. ... Eric Byrnes will be activated this week, but look for him to get extra rest for the next few weeks and for him to be checked on the bases. ... Jose Valentin is shutting it down for the year after rehab and rest just wasn't working. He says he'll try again next season, but at 38, who knows? ... Be sure to check out Dave Cokin's blog. Our buddy from Vegas has some solid insights that come from a different perspective than you're used to. ... Fernando Rodney's lack of control is the big problem and points to a lack of proprioception, not bad luck. ... Josh Willingham is expected to be activated on Tuesday after a short weekend rehab assignment. ... The leaked GnR tracks? Would have been a great album in 1995. ... Anyone else a bit bothered by Zack Greinke's answer about his meds?