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June 25, 2008

Under The Knife

Midweek Maladies

by Will Carroll

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Felix Hernandez (5 DXL)
OK, nice grand slam, kid. The bigger news is what came after, with Hernandez caught blocking the plate and rolled up in what looked like a bad injury. Hernandez was a bit lucky--replays showed that his ankle rolled, then slid. If it had been the other way, sticking the cleats in harder, it could have been much worse. As is, Hernandez has a Grade I+ sprain of his left ankle. Sources say that it's not too swollen, and the M's are watching this closely, allowing Hernandez to work towards his next start as normal, but that they intend to skip that start if there's the slightest issue. Since it's his landing foot, there's a chance that a hesitation or tenderness would alter his mechanics. Watch for the M's to play this one very conservatively no matter which way it goes. In the longer term, Hernandez will remember the home run a lot more than the minor sprain.

Curt Schilling (180 DXL)
Here's the most interesting takeaway from Curt Schilling's Monday surgery: the condition of Schilling's shoulder was in many ways similar to the way it was going into his 1995 surgery, meaning that he did similar damage by doing similar things after that surgery. In other words, from the second Schilling started throwing again after that surgery through a couple of World Series wins, he was leading up to this with each pitch. The ankle? My guess is that it was not an issue, at least not in relation to the shoulder. It's almost purely a matter of his mechanics. Of course, given that he went twelve years between procedures at a high level for much of it, that doesn't really say that we should change things. Most pitchers don't get twelve years in their careers, let alone twelve between surgeries. We still don't know if Schilling will be able to return, but he's an object lesson of the fine balance between health and effectiveness that all pitchers, pitching coaches, and general managers have to think about every time out. Schilling did get a positive result, but the kind of surgery done on him has not been done on a big league pitcher before. There's nothing to go on here but hope and Schilling's desire.

Shaun Marcum (20 DXL)
The Jays got good news from Birmingham, though just having to make that trip tells you it's not all good news. Shaun Marcum came away from his visit to Dr. Andrews with "no major damage," but does have a sprained elbow. The bottom line is that he'll be out until after the All-Star break, though with any elbow injury for a pitcher, there has to be discussion of the "Kremchek Line." Dr. Tim Kremchek has often noted that any pitcher having a tear of 20 percent or more has to at least consider surgery, since in many cases, even if he heals at the time, his ligament is compromised enough that he'll need surgery later. We don't know how torn Marcum's ligament is--and yes, a sprain is a tear--but knowing that it is indeed torn to some level has to increase the risk of Marcum making a return trip to Birmingham at some point in the future, and not flying back so quickly.

Johnny Damon (3 DXL)
Maybe Hank Steinbrenner will suggest that AL outfielders shouldn't play the field. Johnny Damon missed last night's game with a sore arch, though some whispers coming around the league have it as plantar fasciitis. I'll reserve judgment on the latter in the absence of more evidence, or at least a solid source. Damon tends to be a slow healer, it appears, despite having been healthy for most of his career. That's not as strange of a juxtaposition as it seems, since players like Damon and Hideki Matsui (who has a sore knee of his own to deal with) never really "learned" to rehab. There's not much solid information about Damon's foot, including how he got the injury or even when, so we'll have to sit back and wait to figure out more. In the meantime, make sure you have Plan B in place for the short term.

Nick Johnson (125 DXL)
It wasn't slow healing for Nick Johnson; it was a torn ligament in his wrist. Johnson was on the DL with a torn tendon sheath, the same injury that has David Ortiz on the DL, but once the doctors at the Mayo Clinic got a scope inside Johnson's wrist, they found a torn ligament that needed to be repaired. Once again, Johnson gets an early exit to his season. It's small consolation to Johnson that he should be healthy in time for spring training, but the Nats big deal for Dmitri Young doesn't look quite so bad right now (though still bad.) Johnson proved that he could still hit during his month and a half of health, coming back from complications with a severely broken leg. He just didn't prove that he can stay healthy.

Kevin Youkilis (5 DXL)
The Red Sox decided to have Kevin Youkilis seen by a specialist, since he was still having some problems with his vision after being hit by a ball. The team is trying to determine how long it will be before his vision--and therefore his hitting--is back to normal. There's little concern that this is a long term issue, but with Boston's flexibility tested by all the injuries, it seems as if the team just wants to have as much information as possible in order to juggle things. The Red Sox are waiting on David Ortiz, but Youkilis might be the key to both their flexibility and their hitting. Most believe that Youkilis will be back by the weekend, but the Sox have been very conservative with their injury management this season.

Gerald Laird (45 DXL)
The hamstring injury to Gerald Laird could end up being a good thing for the Rangers--but not to Laird, of course, who will miss the next month at minimum with a severely strained hamstring. With the squatting and the crowded situation at DH (assuming that the Texas roster is the same when he's ready to come back), Laird will likely need the full six weeks to heal up and get back behind the plate. In the meantime, Jarrod Saltalamacchia gets a real chance to establish himself behind the plate, Max Ramirez gets a taste of the big leagues, and the Rangers have about ten different options for adjusting their roster around Laird's injury. A player heading to the DL, especially a starter, is never an ideal situation, but the Rangers have enough flexibility and depth to turn this into something good.

Jeff Francouer (0 DXL)
The interesting part of Jeff Francouer needing one contact isn't that he got it done, as was well detailed by Dave O'Brien, but that it took this long for the Braves to figure out what he needed and implement it. It's not clear if Francoeur didn't tell the team that he wasn't picking up the ball's rotation, but it's been clear for a while that his odd day/night split had to have some sort of explanation. Optics is one of the lesser known areas in sports medicine, so a lot of people will be watching Francoeur and checking their stat page for players with day/night splits of their own.

Quick Cuts: The Braves are comfortable enough that Chipper Jones won't need the DL that they'll pinch-hit him. That tells us something, though when he'll be back in the lineup is still questionable. ... David Ortiz will swing a bat before the end of the week. It's a big test for him. ...Brilliant... It looked bad for Troy Percival tonight. The Rays' closer looks to be having more problems with his leg and could need more time off. ... Ian Snell will miss one start, maybe more, as he lets his elbow calm. "Golfer's elbow" isn't good, but it's about the best case scenario. ... News came out that Barry Zito is "working on his delivery." Makes you wonder what might have happened if the Giants had let him do this two years ago. ... An observer who saw Joel Zumaya up close this weekend said he "lacks touch, but looks like he's working on that. I think he might have come back a bit early." ... Mark Mulder was scratched from his rehab start in Triple-A, but oddly might still make his season debut for the Cards this weekend. ... The Reds will make a decision on Edwin Encarnacion on Wednesday with Jerry Hairston coming off the DL. This decision could tell us a lot about which direction the Reds are headed. ... Carl Pavano! No, I just can't do it. ... Erik Bedard will miss a start, which doesn't seem to surprise anyone in Seattle. He shouldn't miss more than that.

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