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August 14, 2008

Under The Knife

Video Day

by Will Carroll

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First, a mea culpa. I made an error in tense in the last UTK, saying that David Ortiz "is" out of the lineup, which many took to mean the game on Tuesday, when he obviously and powerfully was in the lineup. The problem is that I write this column the night before you read it, and the "is" actually referred to Monday's game. I apologize for the confusion. Sometimes things make a lot of sense in my head, but don't quite get to the page. I'll endeavor to do better, but I know that the vast majority of you understand that I'm not perfect.

Chris Carpenter (10 DXL)
Watch in this MLB.com video as Carpenter reaches back and touches the area where he felt the pain. Also note that Joe Morgan is saying that he thought he saw Carpenter drop down a bit on his previous pitch. Gameday doesn't agree with Joe-something he should be used to by now-showing that Carpenter was at a very similar release point throughout the game. The images showed a low-grade tear (strain) in the back of his shoulder at the origin of the triceps (the view is from the back), an area very near the small muscles of the rotator cuff, which could lead to some confusion. The Cards are going to be cautious, skipping a start for Carpenter while he undergoes therapy and strengthening and getting Adam Wainwright ready to move back into the rotation. We won't know for a few days whether Carpenter will just miss the one start, or if they'll DL him. There's some chance that they'll shut him down, though it seems early for that kind of conservative play.

Tim Lincecum (0 DXL)
My guy Chris Vernon in Memphis questioned me about Lincecum's size and any role it might play as far as his injury possibility, but I had to point out that his size and unique pitching mechanics had nothing to do with him being hit by a comebacker. He wasn't in a bad defensive position, and it's simply luck-the bad kind-when a pitcher is hit. The ball ricocheted off Lincecum's knee, leaving him with a bruise, but no fracture; as you can see in this MLB.com video, he was hit as his right leg was coming around. The leg wasn't planted when it was hit, another positive that contributed to his coming away with the bruise and not a break. Lincecum is expected to make his next start, though the team will be very conservative here, so don't be surprised to see his next start delayed if he shows any signs of pain or mechanical alteration on his throw day.

Joel Zumaya (45 DXL)
Sadly, there's no readily-available video of Zumaya's last outing that I can easily link to. The body language told the tale, as Zumaya simply couldn't get his arm to do what he wanted it to do without pain, and that was as apparent to the hitters as it was to the Tigers brass. He's returning from a shoulder surgery that just hasn't been done in baseball, and his getting back at all was something. It's uncharted territory, so it's not surprising that there was a setback, but the goal now is determining what kind of setback. Indications are that there's some sort of inflammatory process going on inside his shoulder, which is a short-term negative, but not a structural issue that could be a longer-term problem. With the Tigers taking their foot off of the pedal a bit, it wouldn't surprise me if Zumaya ended up being shut down in hopes that he'll be right for next season.

Joba Chamberlain (25 DXL)
Is this a smokescreen? The Yankees pushed back the start of Chamberlain's throwing program from Wednesday to Friday, with the explanation from Joe Girardi that it was simply a matter of location. One source told me that the rehab was going to be so short that he felt that the delay was to set him up for slotting back into the rotation. We won't really know for a week or so, but with the Yankees sliding back, there's also a chance that this is nothing more than conservatism. Once Chamberlain is throwing, the program he's on will tell us pretty much everything we need to know. Is he throwing full-out, or is it a light session? Is he using all of his pitches, or is he being limited in some way? They'll also be looking for a return of any pain or tension in the shoulder. It's a binary situation-once he throws, we'll know. I'm not going to read anything into the delay ... yet.

Philip Hughes (120 DXL)
The Yankees aren't going to give a rotation spot to Hughes until they're sure he's healthy, but he's also going to have to prove that he's going to be effective. They're at an odd stage with him, in that they know he's not going to save their season, and they don't quite know what they have in him going forward. He's been good when healthy, but he hasn't been healthy long enough to establish himself on par with Chamberlain. Things are going well with his rehab, showing no problems with the rib or with his mechanics, but the pace of the rehab shows that the team is looking for something more. I guess that something isn't the cut fastball that he's using that he learned from Mariano Rivera. (I've always wondered why more Yankees didn't at least try the pitch.) Reports are also saying that Hughes' velocity is up compared to where it was during his terrible spring, adding more credence to the idea that the rib was the problem far before it was noted. The Yankees are saying that Hughes (and Carl Pavano!) will have one more rehab assignment before returning to the Bronx, but with Dan Giese coming up sore, one of them could be back to fill the gap.

Mike Lowell (20 DXL)
Lowell heads to the DL with an oblique strain shortly after experiencing hip issues. Is it a cascade? Only the Red Sox and Lowell know for sure, but there are suggestions that this might be the case. Whether it is or not doesn't change the fact that Lowell will be out at least a few weeks and likely longer after the strain. The traumatic nature of the injury belies the "caught early" meme that the Sox are trying to put out, and they'll have to hope that a combination of smart treatment and Lowell's pain tolerance can get him back out on the field as quickly as possible. Initial timeframes have him returning just before the minimum, or around September 1, which would be a very aggressive goal. We'll see how this turns out, so look for Lowell to start swinging a bat sometime late next week to know if that initial target is realistic.

Vicente Padilla (4 DXL)
Maybe Padilla injured his neck watching all of those home runs on Tuesday in Boston. Kidding aside, he's actually been dealing with this pain for a while, a nerve entrapment that's also causing pain in his shoulder and arm, and it's a common problem. There is some feeling that this goes back to Padilla's car wreck of a few years ago, but it's almost impossible to tell the real genesis of what is a mostly degenerative condition. Padilla was previously on the DL for the minimum for this, so the hope is that once again that's the worst-case scenario, but the Rangers are clinging to some wild-card hopes and need something resembling a pitcher if they're going to have much of a shot. If Padilla can't make it back for his scheduled weekend start, he'll likely go to the DL, and there is a chance that the team could shut him down and try to make sure he's healthy for what figures to be an improved 2009 campaign.

Scott Kazmir (0 DXL)
Kazmir went into his Tuesday start saying that a small mechanical change involving his stride length would improve his control. While he lost 2-1 and did have better numbers, he continues to be inefficient largely due to his wildness. If the stride length was a problem, it clearly wasn't the only problem. The inefficiency has kept him off of the mound more than any injury has lately; this is his fourth straight start at five innings or less. He's not exactly CC Sabathia for the stretch run, but Kazmir is at a point where the team might have an opportunity to pair him with David Price, which could help the team transition Price into the majors while also protecting their bullpen. If nothing else, it's an interesting concept for resource allocation, and I'm sure we'll talk more about this at the Tampa Ballpark Event on August 29th.

Quick Cuts: Ryan Braun is making progress and should be playing by the weekend. ... I can't watch the Olympics without thinking of this video. ... Andruw Jones heads back on the DL due to continued knee issues. ... Micah Owings will still be traded to the Reds, but for now his shoulder will keep him from starting; odd how that works out. ... Carl Crawford had successful surgery on his finger. Now the race to a 2008 return begins. ... Carlos Guillen will miss a few days as the medical staff tries to calm down a pinched nerve in his lower back. ... We can't keep up.

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