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August 5, 2008

Under The Knife

Dealing with Delays

by Will Carroll

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I can't say enough good things about participating in Newberg Night, and I can't say enough bad things about flying on United, so let's start with the positives. Joe Sheehan and I were lucky enough to be the Opening Act for Jon Daniels' ninety-minute Q&A session, which is always surprisingly candid and not-so-surprisingly enlightening. From Grant Schiller's opening question to the final standing ovation that thundered through the auditorium, it was a great night to be a Rangers fan. Raising over $5,000 for the Hello Win Column Fund was even better, and I hope it's the start of something big for the next time we do an event. I've done Newberg Night every time Jamey's had one, and even with United doing their best to keep me in Dallas, I'll be back for the next one. (Maybe United will go broke before then, because they did a sorry job of being an airline yesterday.)

Powered by American, who got me home, on to the injuries:

Joba Chamberlain (TBD)
I finally got on a plane around 9:00 p.m., and later, when we landed and I switched my phone back on, it nearly exploded. Somewhere in between was the scene that struck fear into hundreds of Yankees fans, because Chamberlain came out of the game while pointing to the outside of his shoulder. The early word is that his muscle tightened up due to a combination of the blistering heat (I sat in that heat the night before, and yeah, it's a huge factor) and fatigue. It's the latter that's most worrisome given Chamberlain's switch of roles. While he built up his arm strength, no one has any idea how the fatigue will be affected by the shape of his season. He's headed back to New York for tests, so we'll know more soon, but early reports and sources tell me that things look relatively positive, based both on the pain's location, and on his reaction. Expect the Yanks to be ultra-conservative, and for Chamberlain to miss a start at least. We'll know more after the images, but I'll leave the DXL as a TBD for now.

David Ortiz (0 DXL)
Big Papi felt a click in his injured wrist. A click doesn't sound like much, but it might be the head of Ortiz that the Sox have to worry about, rather than the wrist. For the first time, Ortiz is doubting his wrist a bit, and that's as bad as if it were hurting; we'll have to wait and see how the wrist reacts. While you can see in the picture that accompanies Tony Massarotti's article that Ortiz's wrist is often in precisely the position he doesn't want it to be in, I'm curious about the at-bat with the bad click. He was up against Joakim Soria, and he hit a few foul balls before grounding out to first. I'd bet it was the foul more than the pulled grounder, as it's taking it the opposite way that should put Ortiz's wrist into the worst position. MLB.com doesn't have the video available as I get this out, but I'm sure my readers will tell me how it looked. Watch to see how Ortiz reacts, both mentally and to the treatment he's sure to get.

Billy Wagner (TBD)
It's not just Joba who's getting attention in New York. With Wagner heading for more tests, the Mets will turn to their own phenom, Eddie Kunz, in the late innings, perhaps even closing. Wagner is reporting a recurrence of pain in his forearm, but while this is often a "code" for elbow issues, he had this previously and images showed a strain in his forearm, just as the Mets said. A recurrence in this case actually functions as a positive since we know what it was previously. We'll have to wait on the tests to know how significant it is and how long Wagner will be out, so let's be patient with the DXL here; there's just not enough info to make even an educated guess. If the Mets make the playoffs, then the rest might help Wagner, assuming he can come back from this.

Kerry Wood (15 DXL)
Wood has made a lot of progress in the last few days, and it looks like he should be activated today. I was on WGN's Sports Central with Dave Kaplan last Friday, and Kerry told the audience that he was feeling good and that he was ready to return (as well as talking about his charity auction). Wood has made it through a few sessions and it seems that his blister has healed up. There's always some recurrence risk here, but as he gets further away from it, he should be okay. The Cubs have to hope that Wood can be durable enough to rest Carlos Marmol some, while also getting the side benefit of a month's rest for Wood. We'll see how Lou Piniella handles this, which could be key for the Cubs' contention hopes.

Carl Crawford (3 DXL)
It's stunning to me that Crawford could be having what looks like an off-year and that at the same time his team is surging. Crawford's .258 EqA would be his lowest in four seasons, and he's off in nearly every major offensive category. With his recent hamstring issues combined with Tampa's turf, it's unlikely that this will change anything for him in the stolen base category. Crawford has dealt with the soreness for a while, and given the options, Joe Maddon can afford to give Crawford some time off here and there to keep him in the lineup long-term. He's still well worth his below-market salary, but he might not live up to the big-dollar auction value many put on him heading into 2008.

Todd Helton (90 DXL)
Quite simply, Helton is making no progress. His back is "beat up" according to Keith Dugger, the Rockies trainer, and it looks as if his season is over. The question becomes whether or not he can come back at all, and whether or not the Rockies will be on the hook for the back end of Helton's big deal. Based on what we know, the worst-case scenario right now is that he'd need minor back surgery and would miss a few months, but back surgery tends to have a good return rate. The time off might help Helton, especially if his conditioning picks up along the way. I'm not saying he'll return to an elite level next year, and he could miss the start of next season if he does need surgery, but this might make him very undervalued in your 2009 draft.

Eric Chavez (60 DXL)
Chavez's season is done, but then it doesn't seem like it ever really started. His shoulder was worked on last off-season during a series of surgeries that tried to rebuild it, but it's "shredded" according to Chavez. The upcoming surgery will take a look inside before determining what needs to be done. If it's just the labrum, he should be back in time for spring training, but the indications are that this could be far more serious. Whether or not he can come back at all is one question, and whether he can come back to play third base is yet another, making for a pair of important questions about how the last, really expensive years of his contract will turn out.

Scott Rolen (10 DXL)
The Jays might not realize it, but they're out of it. Sure, they beat the A's because of Roy Halladay's nice night, but when it comes to big decisions like whether or not to shut Rolen down, it's more important to note that they have a 1.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. It sounds like Rolen has 'hit the wall' again with his shoulder, something that's happened each of the last five years. He could struggle through and play in bursts, or the Jays could realize that shutting him down might help them more in 2009. I don't expect the long-term view from the Jays here, so I'm setting the DXL low.

Chris Duncan (60 DXL)
Duncan isn't the first person to have a disc replacement in baseball, but he is the first to have it in his neck (cervical spine). I recently did an article on the future of sports medicine, and disc replacement was one of those "future" things that's coming a lot faster than we expected. Still, this is a serious, even career-threatening injury—Cardinals fans will remember that a similar injury ended Larry Walker's career. Duncan was scheduled for surgery immediately, and may have had the procedure done on Monday, though I couldn't confirm this. Since this is both new in sports medicine and carries the vagaries of any operation, we likely won't have any clue on how this will affect Duncan until spring training at the earliest.

Quick Cuts: Aaron Harang made it six innings in a successful rehab start; he could be back by the weekend. ... Ichiro Suzuki is dealing with mild swelling in his knees, but it shouldn't be a long-term issue. ... Vernon Wells might be injury-prone, but he's a quick healer. He could be back from his hamstring issues as soon as next week. ... Rafael Soriano heads back to the DL, leaving the Braves bullpen short yet again. ... Victor Martinez is expected to start a rehab assignment later this week. ... Expect Livan Hernandez to sign with the Mets by mid-week. ... Rest in peace, Skip.

Related Content:  Back,  Dollar Sign On The Muscle,  Big Papi

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