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August 8, 2008

UTK Wrap

East Feast

by Will Carroll

I started my week sitting in the Texas sun, looking up at the scoreboard to see that the game-time temperature was 105. I'm pretty sure I could have qualified at welterweight after three hours of sweating, but there are times when you have to make sacrifices for baseball. As we cross the hottest part of the season, the races in five of the six divisions are almost as hot as an Al Gore summer. That means that some of these races will be decided not by the best pitcher or the hottest hitter, but by which team can avoid or at least minimize injuries. The most important names to know might end up being Gene Monahan, Paul Lessard, Ron Porterfield, or Herm Schneider. (Go look them up if you don't already know who they are.) I heard Kevin Kennedy say on XM this week that when things are this close, it's the little things that make the difference. I'd argue that health is not one of those "little" things. Powered by Twitter (where we're @baseballpro), on to the injuries:

Joba Chamberlain (20 DXL/$1.7 million)
I usually have a rule that a player can't lead UTK three days in a row, let alone every day of the week, 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's "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.

Andy Pettitte (0 DXL/0)
Mark Feinsand knows his stuff, so when his report came out that Pettitte was going to miss a start with arm problems, I started making calls. No one-and I mean no one-would say anything besides "I don't know." Pettitte himself came out and said that he felt fine, and that he'd make his next start. Is this a case of someone feeding Feinsand bad info, or is Pettitte asking us not to pay attention to the history of elbow problems behind his curtains? It appears that the heart of the story is that the Yankees know that Pettitte is fatigued, and that his elbow tends to be where the fatigue manifests itself. Skipping a start or finding other ways to get him rest are sure to be discussed. The rest of the rotation is shaky, and the Yankees are hoping that one of the young pitchers can get healthy and help. We'll have to keep an eye on this, because I think before long Feinsand will be proven correct.

David Ortiz (0 DXL/0)
Big Papi felt a click in his injured wrist. A click doesn't sound like much, but it might be Ortiz's head 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 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.

Ivan Rodriguez (3 DXL/$0.1 million)
David Murphy (25 DXL/$1.0 million)

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 injuries makes 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 it's just that long, although his knees would have liked it more 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. (Joe Girardi expects him back in action today.) 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.

Billy Wagner (20 DXL/$1.3 million)
As expected, Wagner headed to the DL with a recurrent strain in his left forearm. The Grade II strain should heal up over the next couple of weeks with rest and treatment, but there's some confusion among my sources and advisors about how long it will take him to get back into games. Given the Mets' needs, most tend to think it would be on the shorter end. Complicating this are reports that he regularly wakes up with a painful, spasming shoulder. If the shoulder is a cascade from the forearm, then getting the elbow healthy should help both. If it's the other way around, and the shoulder issue has led to a muscle strain, it's not as clear about how the Mets will treat it. The Mets' interim situation at closer will also inform their treatment plan; they're hoping that Eddie Kunz can help hold them things down for at least a few weeks. Ideally, Wagner would miss about a month recovering and then rehabbing. I'm guessing that it will be somewhere shy of that due to the variety of circumstances.

Chris Duncan (60 DXL/$2.0 million)
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.

Todd Helton (90 DXL/$4.6 million)
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 Helton 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. Late word is that the third in a series of epidural injections helped, but this sounds more like damage control than a positive indicator. (Helton is also one of those interesting cases where his MORP is well below his actual salary level, unlike most players.)

Eric Chavez (60 DXL/$2.5 million)
Chavez's season is done, but then it doesn't seem like it ever really started. His shoulder was worked on last offseason during a series of surgeries that tried to rebuild it, but according to Chavez it's "shredded." 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.

Adam Jones (45 DXL/$3.2 million)
The Orioles have placed Jones on the DL with a broken foot, perhaps ending his season. It wasn't everything the O's had hoped for when he was made the centerpiece of the trade involving Erik Bedard, but it certainly showed promise. Jones fouled a ball off of his foot and had been in a walking boot since the weekend before the swelling went down enough to get good images. In the meantime, he'd tried to convince manager Dave Trembley that he could be available for pinch-hitting. That's admirable toughness, sure, but it's also not very smart. Jones could be back in time to make an appearance before the end of the season, but it's quite likely that, given the Orioles record, we've seen the last of Jones for 2008.

Quick Cuts: Chipper Jones is likely to be activated from the DL, but limited to a pinch-hitting role, according to the Braves. I doubt that will last long. ... Carl Crawford is back in the lineup since the Rays are playing on grass. He says he's at 85 percent, so don't expect steals. ... Reid Brignac, the Rays shortstop of the future, broke his wrist and is likely done for the season. ... Aaron Harang is expected back in the rotation this weekend, though he'll be on an innings limit. ... The Dodgers are very close to shutting down Jason Schmidt. ... Justin Upton is swinging a bat and should start a rehab assignment early next week. ... John Maine is making nice progress, which could keep the Mets from signing Freddy Garcia. ... Three teams claimed Livan Hernandez-the Rockies, the Mets, and the Cardinals-so he'll be pitching in Coors Field. ... Yeah, it's football season already, so keep your eyes on the SI Fantasy page for my twice-weekly injury reports. During the preseason, we'll take a position-by-position look at which injuries should be affecting your draft board.

Related Content:  Back,  Broken Wrist

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