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August 11, 2008

Under The Knife

Contenders Contending... with Injuries

by Will Carroll

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Carl Crawford (50 DXL)
Evan Longoria (5 DXL)

The Rays have played some games at Disney World this year, and they've just hit a bump in the road on the way towards their Disney ending. The Rays have always held something of an advantage in health management over other teams, but traumatic injuries can creep up on anyone, and in a tight race, they can be the difference between winning and losing, and between making the playoffs or merely watching them. Crawford has a subluxating extensor tendon in his middle finger, which may not sound like much, but it can make it very difficult to grip a bat, and could cost him the rest of the season. A doctor I spoke with said that it's equivalent to "the worst fracture, in effect." Crawford is waiting to see how the finger responds before deciding on surgery. The team was also without Longoria this weekend after he took a J.J. Putz pitch off of his hand. It's nothing more than a severe bruise, but it is painful. The team is going to be conservative with him, but he's expected back early this week with little or no lingering problem. Between losing Crawford and adding the oft-injured Rocco Baldelli to the roster, how the Rays rise to the challenge of managing and overcoming injuries will have a major impact on their ability to stay in the AL East race.

Carlos Lee (50 DXL)
It didn't take long before Astros fans were wondering if Barry Bonds could help their team after learning that Lee was down for the season. (It certainly couldn't hurt.) Lee's fractured finger has ended his season and leaves a giant hole for both the Astros and many fantasy rosters. He could return in the last week or so, but I think the team realizes that there's little value in his doing so. There's no carry-forward on this, and it's just one of those traumatic injuries that happens, heals, and allows the player to move on. Lee's hot streak aside, it's yet another data point in my fight for protective gloves like these to become standard equipment. Seriously, how many times do I have to say it? Or how many more millions of dollars will owners waste on DL days that might have been avoided?

Chris Carpenter (5 DXL)
Adam Wainwright (60 DXL)

It's well known that there's often a cascade after Tommy John surgery, or more appropriately, a "re-linking cascade," in which a newly-strengthened link in the kinetic chain exposes a new weak link. Given Carpenter's history with his shoulder and the way it looked as he walked off the mound, the situation could be worse. The team has announced that Carpenter has a triceps strain, and while this is in no way good, it's the best scenario of all the possible bad scenarios. Muscles heal, and assuming that this isn't a more significant tear that it initially appears to be, Carpenter is hoping he won't miss a start, and the decision will be made tomorrow after the team finds out the extent of any swelling or soreness. If Carpenter misses a turn-or more importantly, more than one-this could change the plans for Adam Wainwright, who was headed to the pen to become the team's closer. Now, depending on Carpenter's status, pushing Wainwright back into the rotation is going to have to be discussed, but the team still hopes he can be their answer in a relief role.

Orlando Hudson (50 DXL)
It's deja vu for the D'backs, as Hudson dislocated his wrist on a freakish play, had surgery on Saturday night, faces a second surgery to try to deal with the ligament damage, and is done for the season. Last year, Arizona made it to the playoffs with Augie Ojeda at second base. Hudson should be able to come back from this in plenty of time for next season, though with impending free agency, he may have played his last game in Diamondbacks ... red? Orange? What is that color? For whoever looks at him next season, the injury shouldn't be lingering problem, with the surgery correcting whatever internal damage there was. Hudson might lose some power, but that's never been his strong suit anyway.

Jose Contreras (50 DXL)
Contreras came back and promptly went down again, putting his 2009 season and possibly even his career in jeopardy after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Many asked if this had any connection to his previous DL stint, and the answer is no. It's a confluence of weakness and odd positioning that ends up with Contreras heading for extensive surgery on his landing leg. Some smart emailers have asked whether having tendonitis in one part of his body could affect another in regards to medication, but while cortisone can weaken tendons, it's a very local drug, so this is another unlikely factor. At best, Contreras will be back around Opening Day of next season, but that's a very aggressive plan, especially given his age. He's under contract and has worked in relief in the past, so that could be an option for him.

Ryan Braun (5 DXL)
There's the easy joke that Braun hurt his back getting back into his own league after shooting a commercial last week, but hey, the dude is a star, has his own Affliction signature shirt, and has blown through the sophomore slump, so why shouldn't he be in Marissa Miller's league now? The Brewers hope he's back playing in their league early this week, after back spasms left him breathless. Braun was out of the lineup on Sunday, and while this doesn't look serious, it will probably cost him a few days. Since it happened on a swing, there's a pretty high recurrence risk, so the Brewers medical staff is going to have to watch this one very closely after he comes back.

Reggie Willits (15 DXL)
The Angels have enough of a lead in their division that they can make conservative decisions with everything and everybody when it comes to injuries. When Willits had his second concussion in a week, they did the smart thing by simply pushing him to the DL, even without his showing any significant symptoms. Willits is one of those all-out players for whom this might end up becoming a bigger problem. Given the issues baseball has had with concussions, making sure that Willits is rested is smart, but it would be smarter if someone (New Era?) could come up with some kind of lightweight cushioning system that would fit inside a baseball cap. Just a thin rubber ring or something, or an insert! Willits isn't expected to miss much more than the 15 days he's required to, and while concussions are inherently unpredictable, he shouldn't have any lasting effects.

Michael Cuddyer (45 DXL)
Rehabs sometimes go badly, and Cuddyer's couldn't have gone much worse, ending as it did with a broken foot. The outfielder is now likely done for the season, although the team is holding out some hope that he can return for the last week or so and be available for the playoffs. In light of the close AL Central race, Minnesota will take an aggressive tack with Cuddyer's rehab. The problem is that it will be difficult for him to get at-bats unless the Twins are in the playoffs and the instructional leagues are open. One more thing that could work against Cuddyer is the schedule: the Twins close out the season with four games in Tampa and six games at home. That means ten games on turf, which will definitely be an issue.

Quick Cuts: A lot of emails about the tape job that Kerri Walsh had on her shoulder. Called Kinesiotape, it's a way of making a flexible brace, and many asked why it's not used in baseball. It is, but baseball players are thankfully more covered than Walsh. ... Speaking of the Olympics, why are these crazy swimsuits worse than steroids? ... The Rockies won't make it official, but sources tell me that Todd Helton is done for the season. The hope is that he'll be ready for spring training. ... Vernon Wells was activated after missing nearly a month with a strained hamstring. He's a fast healer and is ahead of schedule yet again. ... Michael Young continues to play through his broken finger, and continues to have problems hitting. ... Even knuckleballers get sore; Tim Wakefield seems to have one of these shutdowns late each year. ... Scott Rolen heads to the DL as his shoulder gets worse, because the range-of-motion problem indicates that this isn't getting better, even after two surgeries. ... Willie Bloomquist is on the DL, meaning that the Mariners are finally out of it. ... Hideki Matsui is expected to start playing in some rehab games this week. Keep your eye out for how he recovers, more than how he plays. ... Tom Glavine is expected back in the Braves rotation next week, but I'm told it's more for show than for go. "He's pitching on guts," one source tells me, while another near the situation says that Glavine wants to go out on his own terms. ... Pat Neshek is throwing again, though he's a long shot to return this season.

Related Content:  Back,  Cascade Injuries,  Finger

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