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August 7, 2008

Under The Knife

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by Will Carroll

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Joba Chamberlain (20 DXL)
I usually have a rule that a player can't lead UTK three days in a row, but I think I'll have to break it. Combine "young pitcher" with "Yankees" and you get ratings gold, UTK-style! Chamberlain had his visit with Jim Andrews and came away with a diagnosis of "rotator cuff tendonitis." If you're a bit disappointed with the non-specificity here, you're hardly alone. It not only doesn't tell us much, it doesn't match up with what we know. Worse, it's the same initial diagnosis that was given to Jorge Posada, who was later found to have a rotator cuff tear. Chamberlain didn't have any muscular weakness in tests after he was pulled from his last start, and this pain should normally be in a different location. For what it's worth, my sources are saying that there are "mild internal issues," but they wouldn't use the word "damage," even with qualifiers or the typical imagery vagueness, and I think that's a pretty good sign. What it does match up with is a factor we saw earlier-the heat in Texas. It seems the biggest issue is that there's a high degree of distrust when the Yankees report injuries, and that's coming up larger with Chamberlain. If he's not back throwing within two weeks, that's going to be the best indication that something's up, though we really have no idea what his healing time might be. It would be better if the Yankees would step forward and give more information, especially from, or through, a trusted source like Jim Andrews, instead of leaving teammates to guess and confuse things.

Ivan Rodriguez (3 DXL)
David Murphy (25 DXL)

I wish there was a way I could do this more (he says, nudging MLB.com), but when you watch the collision between Rodriguez and Murphy, the injury make so much more sense. It's not often that the runner gets the worst of a home-plate collision, but as Murphy goes from a slide to a stop in a hurry after hitting the baseball equivalent of a brick wall, the force was transferred into his knee, spraining his posterior cruciate ligament. He'll miss two to four weeks, and he was lucky at that, although his knees would have liked it had he just body-slammed Rodriguez. Rodriguez, for his part, was just shaken up, and should miss a game or two while he lets the soreness pass. It was a clean play-Rodriguez was fielding the ball and Murphy did slide trying to avoid contact-that very nearly ended the seasons of two key players. The Rangers will shift Brandon Boggs to the starting role in the meantime, while Jose Molina takes over the catching role again for the Yanks.

Carl Crawford (5 DXL)
Can an injury occur out of spite? Crawford made it clear that he didn't like playing center field, and that he only did it because he was told to. In that one game, he injured his hamstring, and it hasn't gotten much better since, with his recent setback pushing him out of the lineup. His speed and power have been down all year, but moreso since the injury. It makes me wonder if the hamstring has actually been a problem much longer, perhaps all season, rather than just being a "spiteful" injury that may have occurred mid-year. It would explain the shape of Crawford's season, and why his first step is just a little bit slower. Crawford missed his third game, and a decision on the DL will come sometime this weekend if he's unable to play. Part of what's keeping Crawford on the shelf is the hard home turf, but the team's about to head out on a road trip. I expect that we'll see him back in the lineup by Friday. I don't expect things to change as far as the quality of his play.

Matt Capps (45 DXL)
Capps will head up to one of the upper-level farm teams to continue his rehab, and should be back in Pittsburgh within a week. It's not a big deal, and the Pirates have been very conservative with it, but with Chamberlain having very similar issues, it's important to note how this was handled. Capps isn't Chamberlain in talent or in media attention, but it's the way this was handled that should be a lesson. Capps' shoulder inflammation was detailed clearly, explained well to the press, and then Capps was handled conservatively and according to plan. As he returns and slots back into the closer role, it's a sharp difference from how things were handled by the Pirates just last season, proof that things can change for the better on this front very quickly. Even better, this type of handling can not only work, but in this case Capps will also be back well before the initial six- to eight-week expectation.

Kevin Millwood (15 DXL)
Brandon McCarthy (90 DXL)
C.J. Wilson (50 DXL)

There's a wad of news about the surging Rangers, including the injury to Murphy that I detailed above. The biggest issue for the team is the inconsistent pitching, and much of that has to do with inconsistent personnel, often due to injury. McCarthy and Millwood were expected to be the top two pitchers for this years' Rangers, but neither has been healthy enough. Millwood is getting closer after his latest injury, scheduled for a rehab start on Saturday in Double-A. The groin injury seems to have cleared up, and while stamina is still an issue, especially in the Texas heat, Millwood will likely be back if Saturday's start goes well. McCarthy is making slow progress, and is well past his 90 DXL already, but the Rangers want to know that he won't break down when they bring him up, which is largely a function of their roster crunch. This isn't anything like the case of Francisco Liriano; it's just a move based on McCarthy's lack of communication in the past. The Rangers may have to option him, given the 30-day maximum to rehab assignments. Finally, Wilson is headed to California after his rough exit to have his elbow checked. If surgery is recommended, he'll have it immediately, and will likely end his season on that note. There's a small chance he could rehab in time to return if he doesn't get that recommendation for surgery.

Ryan Church (120 DXL)
The Mets are beginning to think that Church might not be back this season. He has had migraines for much of his life, and is having a hard time distinguishing between those migraines and the intermittent symptoms that he's having post-concussion. As with players like Mike Matheny, Corey Koskie, and hundreds of football players, post-concussion syndrome can go on for years, so taking a conservative path with Church isn't just the right thing to do, it's really the only thing to do. That's not to say that he won't return, just that if and when he's able, that will be more of a bonus than any actual plan. There's no way to gauge how this will go, leaving Church stuck waiting and hoping, just like the Mets fans.

Quick Cuts: Ryan Theriot has a big bruise on his foot, but will miss minimal time. ... Asdrubal Cabrera will miss a few games after spraining his ankle, but he'll avoid the DL. ... Sean Gallagher was sent back to Oakland for imaging on his pitching shoulder. ... Michael Bourn is expected back as soon as Thursday from his ankle sprain. Don't expect him to be at full speed just yet. ... Elijah Dukes will go on the DL again, this time with a strained calf. .... I said yesterday that Jeff Francis would start Saturday. He was obviously back on Wednesday. I crossed up two notes right next to each other, swapping Jose Contreras' return in for Francis' note. I apologize. ... Karl Kuehl passed away at age 70. The longtime baseball man offered me some great advice at a time we were both working on books for Ivan Dee, and he was twice a guest on BPR.

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