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July 7, 2008

Under The Knife

Reshuffling the Decks

by Will Carroll

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Yovani Gallardo (120 DXL)
In all the hype surrounding the impending C.C. Sabathia trade, there are a few interesting injury notes. Sabathia comes in as the No. 2 starter for the Brewers, taking over the spot they thought Gallardo would be filling, except that Gallardo's currently out after surgery to repair his ACL. there was some discussion that he could be back before the end of the season, and while it sounded crazy at the time, the Brewers may have something here. Gallardo is already throwing from 45 feet and could be back by September. It's a long shot, but the idea of Gallardo slotting in, perhaps even in the bullpen, is intriguing. It will be difficult to build up his arm strength enough to move him right into the rotation, and the team usually looks to the long term, but Gallardo did heal quickly from his spring knee surgery. There's a chance we'll see him again in 2008, but this is almost completely dependent on whether Sabathia is the difference maker that the Brewers think he is.

Fausto Carmona (30 DXL)
With Sabathia gone, Carmona becomes the team's ace. He won't be the immediate replacement in the rotation-that looks to be Jeff Weaver, of all people-but Carmona's signed long term, and is going to have to be the guy that the Indians saw last year and subsequently decided to pay for. He's making slow progress from his hip problem and should start a rehab assignment soon. That would put him on track for a return just after the All-Star break, though the Indians aren't likely to rush anything given the white flag that the Sabathia trade amounts to. Carmona's hip has already had one setback, so they'll be conservative in getting him to return. The long-term concern is that this doesn't become a recurrent issue, so they'll make sure he's 100 percent before letting him climb back on the mound. He's already beyond the initial expectation that he'd miss 30 days, but I think that's more a function of the team than of Carmona.

Troy Tulowitzki (15 DXL)
"Petulance" is not one of the tick-boxes on the DL form, but that might be what the Rockies need to check off for Tulowitzki. Their shortstop made an interesting case for maple bat safety when he slammed one down in frustration and it shattered, driving a sharp shard of maple across the right palm that required 16 stitches to close. There's no apparent muscle or nerve damage, so the deep cut just has to seal and bind before he can return. That should be close to the minimum of 15 days, and will leave him with a reminder that it's the workman, not the tools. There's some risk that this will extend out if there's an infection, or if the healing takes a bit longer than expected, but his hitting and fielding shouldn't be affected beyond this.

Erik Bedard (10 DXL)
J.J. Putz (30 DXL)
The Mariners aren't finding many takers on Bedard, while he makes his escape from Seattle more challenging because he keeps missing his turn. He was pushed back from his last start with tightness in the back of his left shoulder. The M's plan on keeping him out until after the All-Star break, but they aren't going to put him on the DL, which doesn't make a ton of sense. They should bring Felix Hernandez back at some point in the next week-likely Friday, which gives them some flexibility in planning out the rotation-but there doesn't seem to be any reason to keep Bedard off the DL if they're going to hold him out that long anyway. The team is also expecting J.J. Putz back just after the break, sending him out for a short rehab assignment during the break itself. Putz should slot right back into the closer role, allowing the team to shift Brandon Morrow to the rotation, which pre-supposes that they could deal Bedard.

Alfonso Soriano (40 DXL)
The Cubs were encouraged by Soriano's batting practice session over the weekend, and they believe that he's on pace to return just before the All-Star break. There's some question as to whether the team will push to get him back in before that in-season pause in order to have him available when Soriano said he would be, or whether they'll hold him back and give him a couple extra days of rehab. Either way, the function should be the same; I don't expect there to be significant effect on Soriano's hitting, and none at all on his fielding. While most hand/wrist fractures do have a power-sapping residual effect, the location of the fracture helps, or at least reduces that effect. The Cubs having Soriano on the field will help to deflect some of the attention from the rival making a big trade.

Todd Helton (15 DXL)
The Rockies pushed Helton to the DL to give him a break as much as to recover from a mild back problem. The spasms have tightened him up, and the need for a mind-clearing vacation, combined with the All-Star doings, made it sensible to use the DL here-not to mention Colorado's weak won-loss record. The Rockies still have a lot of money and time invested in Helton, so they have to start being more cautious with small injuries like this. Overall, it's a minor injury, one involving discomfort rather than damage, and the conservative course seems the smart play here. Helton should be back at or near the minimum, though any back injury always carries some risk of recurrence, especially when it's the back of a power hitter pushing 35.

Roy Oswalt (10 DXL)
Oswalt left the Astros over the weekend and returned to Houston to see team physicians about his hip. They decided to give him a cortisone injection, not an uncommon short-term treatment. The odd phrasing in discussion of this, both by the team and by Astros writers, was that the injection was designed to "get him through the season." (Worse, I think, was Ed Wade's questioning of his own trainers, but then it is Ed Wade.) If the injection has this specific design, is there an underlying problem that will need correction in the offseason, or is this just an odd turn of phrase by Wade that was passed on in the articles? I'm relatively sure it's the former. There's no clear return date for Oswalt, though the team doesn't seem to want to place their ace on the DL either.

Johnny Damon (20 DXL)
Damon hits the DL for the first time in his career after losing a battle with a wall, resulting in a sprained AC joint. Damon's had one of the better histories in the epic struggle of player vs. wall over the years, avoiding most injuries and the DL until this late stage in his career. It was quite the showy collision, and one where he hit the plexiglass and not the padding. You can see the center fielder waving the medical staff over as the play is going on, which gives some indication that Damon's shoulder was out of place at that point. The flexing plexiglass reminded me of a hockey player hitting the boards, something that I'd worry about if the Yankees are using the same kind of setup in the new ballpark. (I'm not sure-anyone?) Damon may be hitting the DL for the first time, but he's been a slow healer over the course of his Yankees stint, so if this goes a bit beyond the minimum, I won't be surprised.

Ryan Church (TBD)
Say all you want about the firing of Willie Randolph and how it was handled. To me, the real problem for the Mets has been the handling of Church in light of his post-concussion syndrome. Church has been having headaches, nausea, and dizziness since the concussion, and somehow was cleared to come back and play. Church described his symptoms to the NY Daily News as making him feel like he'd been in "a car crash," which doesn't sound like what someone who is symptom-free and ready to contribute would say. I'm not sure where the breakdown is on this, but the Mets need to get Church off of the field and into treatment before he becomes the next name on the list with Mike Matheny and Corey Koskie, guys whose lives are affected, not just their playing careers.

Quick Cuts: Manny Acosta heads to the DL with a hamstring strain suffered while running out a play in Sunday's marathon game. ... Dan Uggla not only can't run well, his lateral movement is still affected by the ankle sprain. He's unlikely to be back before the All-Star break. ... The Rangers might need Matt Harrison, one of the pickups from last year's Mark Teixeira deal, to fill in if Vicente Padilla's neck continues to be a problem leading up to his next start. ... It sounds like Kelvim Escobar had a significant setback with his shoulder, and he may be headed for surgery that could keep him out for the season, and even end his career. ... Bobby Jenks looks to avoid the DL as the Sox medical staff works to rub his back out of the pain-spasm cycle. Scott Linebrink will pick up the saves in the interim. ... Tom Gordon heads to the DL with his annual sore elbow. He should be back around the minimum. ... Chris Young is expected to restart his mound work just a week after nasal surgery. He should be back within a few weeks. ... The A's put Bobby Crosby on the DL with a strained hamstring. The team's been relatively healthy given all their injury concerns coming into the season, so some of their changes must have worked. ... Elijah Dukes keeps hitting the DL, this time with a knee sprain. He's been a nice pickup when healthy, but that's been infrequent, leaving the Nats short-handed. ... The Giants are sending Tyler Walker for an MRI on his injured knee. It's likely he'll need to go to the DL. ... Brandon Inge will start his rehab this week and will return after the break. No word on any pillow restrictions for the Tigers utility man. ... Adam Loewen again heads to the DL with more problems with his pitching elbow.

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