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July 30, 2008

Under The Knife

Absence and Madness

by Will Carroll

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Tim Hudson (60 DXL)
The Braves might be eligible for a bit of a group discount, not something a team really wants from Jim Andrews. Both Hudson and John Smoltz will be in Birmingham getting checked by Andrews after the Braves' own doctors got a look at Hudson and his test results. (Smoltz is in for a look at his surgically-repaired shoulder.) Reports are that the damage to Hudson's UCL is significant, making it very likely that he'll have Tommy John surgery; once a guy gets beyond a 20 percent tear of the ligament, you can usually expect poor results simply trying to rehab. We'll know more after Andrews gets a look, though at this stage of the season there's no rush to make a decision or to have the surgery. Either way, Hudson would be done for not just this year, but mostly likely 2009 as well. Here's another fun fact: in one of my favorite parts of this story, you can "chase the source" and see who's getting what from whom. In an early Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the name of the Braves' consulting orthopaedic doc, Xavier Duralde (with an "e") was spelled Duraldo (with an "o"). Just go Google the latter and see what I mean.

Brian McCann (7 DXL)
The Braves are smart in taking it very slow with McCann. They're helped by the fact that they've clearly waved the white flag on their season by trading away Mark Teixeira, so there's no competitive need to rush McCann back rather than play Corky Miller behind the plate. McCann is still having "mild headaches," but the Braves have stated since this happened that they would not put McCann back on the field until he's completely asymptomatic. Conpare this with the Mets' handling of Ryan Church, and you'll see that competitive pressure is the big difference. It's easy to praise one and slam the other, but the fact is that one's in the race and the other isn't, and if the roles were reversed, I can only hope that the Braves would still be doing the same thing. McCann, like any PCS sufferer, has no real timetable, though the initial signs are positive.

Michael Young (0 DXL)
Hank Blalock (45 DXL)

Five to seven days? Young laughs at your diagnosis! Despite a broken ring finger, Young decided to grab a bat and see how things went. They went well enough that he told Ron Washington that he was ready to play, so he did. It's hard to say what the effect will be, if any, but the early results are positive. The news isn't as good for Blalock, who heads back to the DL and off of the trading block. Blalock's shoulder became inflamed with no known cause (at least outside the clubhouse), and the balance of his season is now in peril. He had a cortisone injection to try and calm the problem, but given that he's had three surgeries on that arm over the last two years, and that the team had already considered moving him across the diamond before noticing that Chris Davis was a better option, I'm not even sure that Blalock is needed. The timing is bad, since the Giants and Twins had interest, but the timing is always bad when losing a player.

John Maine (10 DXL)
Yesterday, someone in the chat fed me a quote from the Mets new pitching coach saying that he'd told the media that Maine's soreness in the back of his shoulder was a "good sign" and not in a "trouble spot." It's a good thing that he's not a doctor, because the images showed a strained rotator cuff, something most pitchers would call a real trouble spot. Maine's pain and inflammation is definitely a worry, especially the way that it appeared to increase in severity during his start, sapping velocity and causing a noticeable reaction on Maine's face. With the return of Pedro Martinez, Jerry Manuel can juggle his rotation to give Maine a little bit of extra rest, but getting him back out there even after the extra time off is going to be risky. The Mets think Maine can come back without heading to the DL, but I'm not as confident.

Chien-Ming Wang (90 DXL)
Wang is out of his cast and about to be cleared to start throwing, but don't look for him to be back in action before September, and even then it's a bit tenuous. Brian Bruney's already in the process of coming back from a similar injury, and makes for a good comparable recovery (albeit very different pitcher). We'll see how Wang throws, but according to Mark Feinsand (whose interview with me on BPR should be up by the time you read this), the Yanks aren't expecting much in the way of production. The biggest question will be how quickly he regains his stamina, but the uncertainty turns attention to the production of Philip Hughes (who threw two quick rehab innings in A-ball without problems) and the possible near-future acquisition of a back-end starter. Wang gives the Yankees depth, and if he's back for a late-season charge, it will make the Bombers a bit more dangerous.

Julio Lugo (45 DXL)
The Red Sox aren't sure when their shortstop might be back. He's making progress with the quad strain, but has yet to begin even light baseball activities. He's been traveling with the team and receiving treatment, but he'll be staying in Boston as he shifts from non-weight-bearing exercise to regular exercise. It could be another month before Lugo returns, perhaps longer if the strain remains symptomatic. The Sox have been sniffing around on shortstop deals for a while, an indication of just how serious this injury is (and also of Lugo's poor play before the injury). The next milestone for Lugo will be running, so look for that over the next two weeks.

Alexi Casilla (45 DXL)
Adam Everett (70 DXL)

I'll admit that I don't grasp many of the things that the Twins do, but their results give them some leeway. Prior to Casilla's diagnosis with a torn tendon in his thumb, the Twins had given Everett something I've never heard of: a "contemplative outright assignment." It's reported that this means Everett had three days to decide whether or not to accept the assignment to the minors, but the point is moot now, and he's suddenly back in the lineup. With Casilla out for a month on the inside, and more likely out for the season, they had to turn back to Everett, a plus defender who's battled injury problems of his own, mostly of a traumatic nature, over the last few years. Casilla is headed for more tests and visits with doctors, while the Twins hope that Everett's shoulder can hold up, though Brendan Harris now appears to be getting the bulk of time at shortstop for the Twins, which makes almost as much sense as keeping Francisco Liriano in Triple-A.

Quick Cuts: A correction-after discussing this with both the original source and several other knowledgeable parties, it does not appear that Phil Coke was pulled out of the Yankees-Pirates trade due to medical reasons. While everything else in the section yesterday discussing the vagaries of trade physicals holds true, I apologize for the erroneous information. ... Rocco Baldelli could be back by this weekend. Really. ... Rick Ankiel still can't run due to his abdominal strain, but the Cards are waiting as long as possible before putting him on the DL. ... Scott Podsednik will miss a few weeks with a broken finger. With Ryan Spilborghs out, that makes Willy Taveras a reborn fantasy star. ... Mike Napoli should head out on a rehab assignment this weekend, and return to the Angels shortly thereafter. ... Derrick Turnbow has a rotator cuff problem and is likely done for the season. ... Mike Sweeney is expected to head out on a rehab assignment, but is now discussing season-ending knee surgery. Both his season and his career are in jeopardy.

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