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July 14, 2008

Under The Knife

Break Time?

by Will Carroll

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Hanley Ramirez (1 DXL)
One of my Facebook friends mentioned that he was having a mid-season fantasy draft, and while my immediate thoughts were of the usual suspects-Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols-Ramirez is another name that came quickly to mind. His value has been huge, especially with his steals, and he's certainly lived up to his hype. The one downside on him coming into the season has now become the downside going into the second half. Ramirez's repaired left shoulder certainly hasn't slowed him down much this season, but no one seems to note that this is his right (throwing) shoulder. On one hand (no pun intended), it's his throwing shoulder, or that much more important defensively, but it's also not a recurrence of his labrum issues from last season. Ramirez is expected to play in the All-Star Game and doesn't think he'll need to miss much time at all. It's worth watching, but if you're heading into one of those whacky mid-season drafts, you should still be considering taking Ramirez first.

Roy Oswalt (5 DXL)
Oswalt tends to both pitch through injuries, and to not communicate his situation that well. This combo led to him starting on Friday and making it through only one inning due to continued pain in his hip. It's his landing leg, so all the force that Oswalt generates with his leg-drive is transferred into that hip. Add in a "twist" (as can be seen on this video where his torso goes "over" his planted left leg, and there's a lot of force there. Sources tell me that Oswalt was in pain and trying not to wince from his first pitch on Friday, despite saying how good he felt going into the game. The Astros will wait through the All-Star break and watch Oswalt a bit more closely in a planned bullpen session before making a determination on the DL. Current information makes it look like he'll be pushed back at the very least.

Pedro Martinez (5 DXL)
Martinez is a walking cascade injury waiting to happen, but he keeps finding ways to make it work. He's altered his motion so many times to make up for one injury or another that the normal rules simply don't apply to him, but it doesn't always work. He was "whippier" in his last start, and his repaired pitching shoulder tightened up on him quickly. My sources tell me that what Martinez called "tight" actually would be more accurately described as "tired." By putting more of the load on his fragile shoulder, he just asked too much of it. By getting him out when they did, the Mets have probably avoided big problems, but they'll need to be very careful with him over his next few starts, as well as looking for ways to buy him extra rest when possible (and maybe buy Johan Santana a couple extra starts in the process). If you can, avoid his upcoming start to see how his next adjustment works.

Takashi Saito (TBD)
I should take it as a compliment when someone starts an e-mail saying "I know Saito hasn't had his MRI yet, but..." Still, all we know at this stage is that Saito's pitching elbow tightened up on him-"a strong tightness," Saito told reporters-something that he hasn't had before. Saito did have some elbow chips removed several years ago in Japan, but this is not symptomatically like a recurrence of that issue. Instead, there's a broad range that includes a UCL tear, and slides down to "intermittent tightness." Given the symptoms, it's much more likely that Saito will head to the DL. That puts Jon Broxton in the closer role for now, and potentially much longer. We'll all know more once Saito has the images and the results are back. That should happen by Tuesday, and I hope to have more in the next UTK. Until then, I'm not even going to guess on DXL.

David Ortiz (45 DXL)
Julio Lugo (45 DXL)

Ortiz's popularity will get in the way of his rehab for a little bit, though geography is going to get an assist. Thought he won't be participating in either, Ortiz will make his apperance at the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, before shifting to Pawtucket for a couple of games. The PawSox hit the road, so Ortiz will shift down to Double-A Portland. Assuming there are no issues with his wrist-and things have looked good so far-he'll be back on July 25 with the big club. There's still some residual soreness in the wrist, but few think Ortiz will have any problem. He's likely to be even more pull-happy than normal due to where the wrist is weakest, but I doubt this will change his game in any way. The news is not nearly as good for Lugo, who's landed on the DL with what the Red Sox are describing as a "severe" strain of his quad. Given his speed, this is an even bigger issue. He's out at least a month, and probably longer.

Rafael Soriano (30 DXL)
Soriano is throwing again, but the problem is that it's for Atlanta's Dominican League team, not for the Braves. Still, allowing him to rehab at home seems to have gone well, with some chance that Soriano will be activated after the break. It's not clear what the Braves are looking for, aside from the very basic effective pain-free pitching, but sometimes, that's all you need. Soriano is scheduled to throw on Tuesday, so if he does, he could be a cheap waiver-wire pickup in your league. He'd slot into the closer mix immediately, sharing time with Mike Gonzalez, who's been very good since returning, but who's not available enough to hold the job on his own at this stage.

Ryan Zimmerman (45 DXL)
The Nats need some good news, and if Zimmerman can come back, that'd be good news. Zimmerman will start a rehab assignment at nearby High-A Potomac, then move over to Triple-A Columbus once they come off their own All-Star break. The best-case scenario is that he has no problems with his damaged shoulder, hits well, and is back wearing the curly 'W' by the start of next week. Sources think that's likely, since Zimmerman's shoulder problem is very comparable to Hanley Ramirez's situation last season, in that it's his non-throwing shoulder. Most also think that he'll need off-season surgery. That raises the possibility that the Nats will shut Zimmerman down at some point later this summer. More likely is that they'll try to have him play through the roster expansion. One source says the key is "...extension. Watch to see if he's really letting his arm go on a swing."

Kerry Wood (3 DXL)
Carlos Marmol (0 DXL)

Wood won't go to the All-Star Game due to a blister, but it creates an odd situation for the Cubs, as Marmol will replace him even though Marmol, more than any other pitcher around, would seem to need the rest that the break would provide. Marmol has been "Proctored" in terms of getting overworked by Lou Pineilla throughout this season, but that's in large part because he's been phenomenal. The workload seems to be catching up to him over his last few outings, and unless he's the second coming of Mike Marshall, 100 games is too high a bar. How Piniella handles his bullpen over the second half could determine how far the team goes into the playoffs. A team audit should give as much info as needed: Wood can't go 80 games; Marmol shouldn't appear in that many either, let alone continue his current pace; Howry's ahead of Wood's pace; and even Michael Wuertz is being worked too much. Is there a fifth good reliever in the system (maybe, maybe not), or will Chad Gaudin allow the team to shift some of the workload? The blister on Wood's hand is the least of the Cubs' worries; he'll miss a couple games, maybe.

Quick Cuts: Aaron Harang was placed on the DL, but it was a retroactive move with the All-Star break in there as well. The Reds don't have a timeline yet, and are waiting to see how his forearm responds to the rest. ... Magglio Ordonez will spend his break rehabbing in A-ball. He'll be back with the Tigers on Thursday. ... Bobby Jenks made it through a bullpen without trouble and will be activated after the break. He'll pitch twice on a rehab assignment, but no one anticipates much of a problem, besides those poor low-minor hitters who have to face him. ... Jerry Hairston Jr. was carted off of the field Sunday as this year's Reds shortstop curse continues. The hamstring strain looked really bad, but there's no way to tell based on just his reaction. ... Rick Ankiel was held out of Sunday's game to rest his sprained ankle. The break should take care of things. ... Loopt > Twitter. ... The Braves don't expect good news when Yunel Escobar gets his imaging results back. Whispers are that it's his rotator cuff. ... The Twins will juggle their rotation to give Kevin Slowey some extra time to deal with an infected fingernail. ... Brilliant. ... Willy Taveras will hit the DL if resting through the break doesn't get his quad back to a good spot. I think he'll need to be shelved, if only due to the roster crunch the Rockies are facing now. ... Look for some Baseball Prospectus Radio from Yankee Stadium from John Perrotto over the next few days. Good stuff coming.

Related Content:  The Who,  Shoulder,  All-star Break,  Quad-a

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