July 29, 2008
Under The Knife
A lot of people asked about the physicals that are given to players before finalizing trades. In the recent Yankees-Pirates deal, it was reported that Phil Coke, one of the pitchers initially included, had failed a physical, and that caused a reconfiguration of the trade. Many asked how the Pirates had got him to Pittsburgh, had him looked at, and then made the decision to select one of the other pitchers on the list. While I don't know the specific steps taken in this example, I'm also not sure that there were any. There's no standard procedure for the sharing of medical records or for having physicals done in trades. Some turn into day-long full-on tests of everything germane to baseball, while others are little more than a check for a pulse. Even when a physical is failed, there can be disputes. Brandon Lyon failed his several years back during a trade, and ended up as a pretty useful player, though admittedly one who's injury-prone. There might not even be anything symptomatically wrong, but something in the medical record that throws up red flags. There was a trade two years ago that was almost killed after medical records were exchanged and it was discovered that while there was no real problem, one of the pitching prospects in the deal had been getting treatment on his shoulders every day. That gave the potential acquirer cold feet, and the deal had to be reworked. Unless the Pirates elect to give more information-and that's very unlikely-we won't know what, if any, issue Coke has, but you shouldn't necessarily think that it's anything negative.
Jorge Posada (60 DXL)
The effort to get Posada back on the field this year didn't last long. Posada took some swings, and then everyone, including Posada, realized that the doctors were right and that the next three years of his new contract are more important than the remainder of the first. Posada will undergo surgery to repair his damaged shoulder very soon, and is expected to be ready near Opening Day of next year. My guess at this point is that he'll return no later than May 1, and that he'll be able to come back as a catcher. That could all change, depending on what they find and repair inside the shoulder, but the worst-case scenario is a shift to DH. Of course, Johnny Damon seems to think that he's the DH now, and he likes the position, so the Yankees are going to have some configuration issues to deal with over the winter. Posada should be able to return to level with his hitting fairly easily, which is where most of his value lies.
Tim Hudson (60 DXL)
Chipper Jones (15 DXL)
Things have gone from bad to worse for the Braves. As they were trying to decide whether or not they were still contenders this year, they may have lost some of their chance of contending next year. It wasn't that long ago that the trio of Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder was the best in the game, but now it may be that only Zito is pitching next year, and that's without discussing his effectiveness or value. In the meantime, Hudson is headed to Birmingham, with the Braves acknowledging that his UCL is sprained. GM Frank Wren said that there's both new and old damage in the elbow despite Hudson being able to throw on Monday, and that things don't look good. Sources tell me that the Braves believe that Hudson will need Tommy John surgery, and that he'll be lost to them for most, if not all, of 2009. With Jones also headed to the DL and Mark Teixeira and others headed out of Atlanta, it's going to be a very interesting last couple of months for the Braves.
Michael Young (6 DXL)
It appears that the Rangers won't have Young in the field when I'm down there this weekend, which is too bad. What's good for the Rangers is that despite a broken finger, he's only expected to miss a week of play. It's his right ring finger, injured when he was diving back to first on a pickoff play, so because of the relative unimportance and normal weakness of that digit, he'll be able to play with a minimum of issues once the pain and swelling are gone. The All-Star shortstop's absence will cause a bit of rearranging around the diamond, but not quite as much as last night, when Chris Davis was pushed over to third base. Young will likely feel the effects of the fracture a bit once he returns, but as with Alfonso Soriano, the lingering nature of hand/wrist injuries is less of a nuisance when it's in the fingers, and even less when it's the ring finger.
John Maine (TBD)
While the Mets have surged back into the NL East race, they haven't been able to shake their injury problems. It could get worse if Maine misses more than one start. He left Monday's game early with a stiff shoulder and showed a big drop-off in velocity as well. Pedro Martinez is back from bereavement leave and will slot into the rotation, giving the Mets some flexibility in giving Maine some time off, but early reports have Maine with "significant inflammation" after the start. Maine is reportedly a "big icer normally" so it's tough to gauge this one based just off the information we have. The Mets haven't scheduled tests, but we'll be watching this one very closely. I'm leaving the TBD on the DXL until there's a BMI (bit more info).
Phil Hughes (90 DXL)
While it was bad news for Posada, the Yankees did get some good news regarding Hughes. His recovery from a broken rib is finally getting to the point where a timetable is being discussed and starts are being scheduled. Hughes was supposed to throw in the GCL on Monday, but weather forced him to Charleston, where he and Carl Pavano (no, really) will pitch on Tuesday. Both will likely go two innings, and assuming all goes well for Hughes, the next step is likely to be a rehab start at one of the upper-level affiliates. Stamina is the big issue, but the team is also watching closely to make sure that the rib isn't again creating any sort of mechanical issue. If there are no setbacks, Hughes could be back in the Bronx by mid-August. One observer reminded me of something he said last year: "Remember when I told you Hughes pitched like Josh Beckett? I meant on the mound!"
Rick Ankiel (5 DXL)
Ankiel is out of the Cards lineup with a strained abdominal muscle. Initial reports were unclear as to whether this was an illness or a muscular problem, but the lingering nature of the problem made it clear that it's the latter. As with obliques, abdominal strains can linger, and since the core is involved in nearly every athletic function, it's very prone to re-tearing, requiring a careful and slow rehab. The Cards called up Nick Stavinhoa to help cover for Ankiel, though they haven't yet discussed putting Ankiel on the DL, but the team will need to make a roster move on Wednesday to activate Chris Carpenter for his first start back, so I'd imagine that a decision on Ankiel could come then.
Kerry Wood (20 DXL)
The news hasn't changed on Wood, but the news surrounding him has. Wood made it through a side session using a covering over his finger that could best be described as one of those rubber thimbles used for counting money. (Somewhat ironic, no?) Wood's blister problem hasn't gotten worse, it's just slow to heal, and while the Cubs have options, there's no reason for them to rush him back. As I've said time and time again, the rest is going to end up being a good thing for Wood, who's already exceeded nearly every projection and expectation for him as a closer. If the Cubs can keep their bullpen fresh, and if the additions of Chad Gaudin and that kid from Notre Dame-hey, I learned to spell Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek over time-work out as well as the Cubs think it will, they'll be dangerous well into the playoffs, where Nate Silver has shown that power arms have an advantage. Wood's blister trouble has gone over the expected time already, but I don't think it will be much longer.
Quick Cuts: Finally, a Victor Martinez sighting! He took some swings, and the Indians think he could be back around mid-August. ... Roy Oswalt looked pretty good in his start back off of the DL. He was kept on a very tight pitch limit and was pitching against his personal whipping boys, the Reds. ... Eric Chavez took batting practice and could move to first base. With Daric Barton on a rehab assigment, there's some discussion about the infield's configuration when both are available. ... The A's could also get Frank Thomas and Mike Sweeney back after rehab assignments this week. ... Joe Crede is expected to come off of the DL when eligible August 6. The Sox think he'll be able to make it through the remainder of the season without more problems, though backs are tricky. ... Joel Zumaya is available to throw and could even get a save opportunity, which is good news after his shoulder soreness, but I'm still watching this one closely. ... Nomar Garciaparra has a mild sprain of his knee, which is good news compared to what most thought would happen when the Dodgers put him back at shortstop. ... Adam LaRoche hits the DL with a back issue. The team called up Brian Bixler and may use Steven Pearce at first base.