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July 28, 2008

Under The Knife

Perpetual Problems

by Will Carroll

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Dustin McGowan (70 DXL)
I want to throw an "I told you so" out at the Jays, but it feels hollow. Despite noting his big jump in innings back in the Jays Team Health Report and knowing that there was no way his damaged shoulder was going to make it back without surgery, this is just another of those instances when I didn't want to be right. We can discuss the Verducci Effect, we can note that none of the burgeoning biomechanics sites cited McGowan as being in any particular danger, but in the end, McGowan is just another pitcher headed to the operating table, and we really have no idea why. The hope is that the rotator cuff and labrum aren't so far gone that they'll cost him more than just the end of 2008 and much of 2009, but that's not much consolation, and there's not much of a lesson learned either. He's just another pitcher, just another casualty, and the Jays will replace him, just as it has been done in the game every time a pitcher falls for over a century.

Brian McCann (3 DXL)
Every time a player gets plowed at the plate the way McCann did, my email box fills up with calls for the play to be banned, or for some protection to be given to the catcher. As much as I hate to see any player get hurt, I think the answer is to have catchers stop putting themselves in harm's way. In recent memory, Yadier Molina has been just crushed a few times at the plate, even suffering a concussion. After coming back, he made a smarter play, avoiding the contact and making the tag "matador style," as Mike Shannon called it. McCann didn't olé this one, and was left with a concussion. The Braves are calling it "slight" but there's no such thing where concussions are concerned. We'll have to just watch and hope that McCann comes back more quickly and easily than Aaron Hill or Ryan Church did. I'm hearing positive signs from sources, but the three DXL is just a guess.

Chris Carpenter (120 DXL)
Adam Wainwright (45 DXL)

With Carpenter about to come off of the DL and scheduled for Wednesday's start, the Cards will start getting to see what their pitching really looks like down the stretch. Carpenter is expected to be a bit erratic, though the command he showed in his second rehab start was promising. With him slotting back into the top of the rotation, the Cards should get a boost, but it's also allowing the team to think about how to put the rest of the staff together. Wainwright is expected to be a few weeks behind, and the team could either slot him into the bullpen (his World Series-winning role), or add him to the rotation and hope that what they have or what they can acquire will hold the pen together. It's a bit odd to be thinking about it this way, since as recently as a month ago, several in-the-know people were contemplating whether or not Carpenter would need to go into the bullpen instead of Wainwright. Of course, until Wainwright gets back to throwing to live hitters, something he's still yet to do after his finger injury, the issue is angels-on-pinheads stuff, especially since he's already well beyond the expected loss of six weeks.

Joel Zumaya (5 DXL)
Just as the Tigers were flipping their bullpen around, Zum-Zum came down with a sore shoulder. Jim Leyland, apparently a secret sabermetrics guy (or a guy listening to the not-so-secret ones in the Tigers front office), planned to use Zumaya in his pivotal eighth-inning role while moving Fernando Rodney in as the closer. With Zumaya now showing signs of shoulder trouble and diagnosed with a triceps strain, those plans are in flux. Rather than building around their closer, the Tigers have for the past three seasons built around the eighth inning. The odd thing is that over those three years, they've blown more saves in the eighth (18) than they did in the seventh (12) or the ninth (12). We'll have to watch closely to see how Zumaya responds to his arm problem, and how Leyland responds to restructuring his pen-but doing both while trying to get back in the race is going to be tough for the Tigers.

Jose Guillen (8 DXL)
Here's the headline: "Groin snaps." I'll let you catch your breath, so take your time. I'm not sure if Guillen would describe his groin injury the same way that Griffey did so lyrically last season, but still, it's a pretty epic-sounding injury, no? Actually, Guillen's groin strain is considered "mild" by the team, and while he's been playing through it, they're also going to wait and see how he responds before doing more than rest and treatment. This doesn't have anything to do with trade possibilities, and just seems to be a combination of knowing Guillen and his situation, and taking the normal and very conservative approach to sports medicine that the Royals usually take. Having already lost Joey Gathright-who injured his shoulder on the Tampa turf, and not by exacerbating a chronic injury as I stated on Friday-the Royals outfield is a bit thin now. The 8 DXL indicates that the disabled list is a just better-than-even possibility for Guillen.

Chipper Jones (15 DXL)
Jones plays through muscle strains the way most people go through wings at Hooters-easily, but regretting it the next day; for him to say that he needs the fifteen days off is telling. Jones has both the acute hamstring strain that he suffered last week and the chronic quad/hip strains that he's played with for much of the year. The timing is the interesting part, given that Jones was unavailable for the series during which the Braves were going to make their big buy-or-sell decisions. The DXL here is a bit light; on most players, I'd say he'd need more like a month to completely recover, but I don't think that's how Jones and the Braves will play this unless they choose to wave a white flag on the 2008 campaign.

Carlos Gomez (3 DXL)
Chalk another one up for the wall. Gomez really looked to have been beaten down, carted off the field on a stretcher after slamming into the outfield fence with his back. It was a smart precaution to take, as he was in heavy spasm after the collision. Luckily, it was more painful than serious, and while he missed the weekend and will likely also miss a few more upcoming games, he doesn't appear to be heading for the DL. The worst of his injuries is a bruise on his tailbone that's very painful, though it's also dissipating. With Michael Cuddyer finally closing in on a rehab assignment and Denard Span playing well, Gomez could be in some danger of getting Pipped. He's already been dropped in the order, and Ron Gardenhire very notably used the speedy Span in the leadoff slot over the weekend.

Scott Kazmir (0 DXL)
Kazmir came back into the game after a 1:21 rain delay in Kansas City this weekend. He ended up throwing just 91 pitches, with 22 of them in the one inning pitched after the rain. I'm told that he stayed warm during the delay with soft toss, and that he was determined to get back out and qualify for the win. I have a hard time with this one. On the one hand, that's pretty dangerous, given the history of guys like Josh Johnson and the relative importance-to-fragility ratio on Kazmir. On the other hand, an average game is about three hours, so if Kazmir had pitched during the delay, it's reasonable to say he would be somewhere around three innings, or for him 60 pitches. Did he throw 150 pitches? Probably not, in much the same way and for the same reasons that we don't include warm-up pitches in pitch counts. (Perhaps we should count full-go throws in pre-game bullpens.) It will be interesting to see how Kazmir, a guy who needs to go deeper into games with more efficiency than he does now, will react to this singular start. We'll find out on Friday when he goes up against the Tigers.

Quick Cuts: Tim Hudson is likely to make his next start, but I'd hold him out of a fantasy lineup given his confidence level after a "decent" side session. His elbow still appears to be an issue. ... I'd do the same with Roy Oswalt, who's coming back very fast. ... Michael Bourn "stuffed" his ankle into the bag more than he sprained it, not unlike what Jimmy Rollins did earlier this season. Given his speed, either kind of hurt is still a problem. ... Fausto Carmona couldn't find his release point during his first start back from the DL, but he came out of the game healthy. ... Kerry Wood threw a bullpen with his blister covered to prevent any problems. It's a step, but the Cubs still don't seem sure if Wood will be ready to come off of the DL when eligible on Tuesday. ... Aaron Harang will throw from a mound on Monday. How he does there may determine the rest of his rehab. There are some whispers that the Reds would consider shutting him down. ... Kevin Millwood hits the DL for the second time with a groin strain. ... Brad Penny is ready for a rehab assignment, and the Dodgers expect him back in the rotation during the first week of August. ... The thing to remember about this whole Manny Ramirez trade noise is that Manny Ramirez is many things, but stupid isn't one of them. If he's trying this hard to make sure that the Red Sox don't pick up his option, he knows there's a better offer out there this offseason.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Groin,  Quad-a

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