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August 18, 2008

Under The Knife

Mixed Signs and Injury Recidivists

by Will Carroll

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Joba Chamberlain (25 DXL)
Hideki Matsui (60 DXL)

The Yankees are becoming a bit stronger with Matsui getting closer to a return while Chamberlain's resumed throwing, although there are conflicting signals with both. Chamberlain threw twice this weekend, looking solid in a normal side session of sixty pitches on Friday, and then doing some light throwing on Saturday with little trouble. He's scheduled to throw again on Monday, and could be back soon, but the Yankees both aren't going to rush him. While he did throw sixty pitches-a starter's workload-there's been some speculation that he could slot back into the bullpen, but my sources think he'll return to the rotation and that the slow pace is more a reflection of the team's record rather than any physical setbacks. The Yankees could see Matsui back as soon as Tuesday. He made it through a quick rehab in Tampa and hasn't shown the same kind of swelling in his knees that made it seem as if he might be headed for surgery. The team will need to be careful with him and he'll likely have any procedure done in the offseason, but this is at least something positive for a player who looks to be in sharp decline.

Billy Wagner (45 DXL)
It was a big setback for Wagner, and one that could end his season. Instead of forearm stiffness, he has an elbow issue, and is headed for more tests on Tuesday. It's a little odd that none of this occurred until his simulated game, but one front-office source I spoke with said that Wagner probably didn't really let the ball go until the simulated game. Forearm problems are sometimes just referred pain from the elbow, and this certainly has some signs of having been that, though the Mets do have images that show a strain on the underside of his arm. I'm still not convinced that's the only problem, especially since Wagner actually expressed relief that it wasn't bone chips. (How would he know how they felt?) If there's any positive sign, it's that Wagner didn't have a sudden loss of control. We'll have to wait and see what the verdict is on Tuesday, but Mets fans have to be concerned that any extension of Wagner's time off will expose a weak bullpen.

Victor Martinez (60 DXL)
The Indians are giving their long-time Buffalo affiliate a nice parting gift, in that they're leaving Martinez there for another week. Martinez has shown no problems so far with his elbow or hamstring, and he's scheduled to catch six innings on Tuesday. Thus far there have been no setbacks, and no sign of discomfort on throws. Sources who have been watching Martinez say he looks "completely normal," which is about as good a comment as you're going to hear on a rehabbing player. Martinez's conservative pace is determined more by the Indians place in the standings (and Kelly Shoppach's solid play) than by the injury itself, so don't read too much into the duration of this. There's still a chance he could be activated in time for the Texas series.

Aaron Harang (0 DXL)
Dusty Baker dropped the problems of this team on Wayne Krivsky, but while this might not be "his team," I think Dusty might want to remember some of those Cubs rosters that were designed for him by Jim Hendry, who for a time served more as a butler than as a GM. If it's not Dusty's team, he can sure take a look at the pitching staff and claim it. He's extolled the work of most of them, aside from the peripatetic fifth starter, and has put all four in the top 35 of PAP. He's taken the credit for Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, and sung the virtues of Bronson Arroyo, all but taking him off of the market last month, so he should also accept the blame for Harang. As the workhorse that Baker loves to have around, Harang had no problems until Baker worked him like the proverbial rented mule. Harang hasn't been the same since his relief outing, and his control continues to be very problematic. Instead of being worried about his arm for next year, Baker is worried about his psyche. Me, I'm just worried about his elbow; he should clearly not be on the mound as he continues to compensate for a lack of command. He's going to have a giant red flag on him next year, if he makes it that far.

Troy Percival (15 DXL)
Percival heads back to the DL with a cartilage problem in his knee. As with most injuries like this, it will need surgery, but Percival is hoping that some rest and treatment will allow him to schedule that surgery sometime in late October. The problem is likely a bit of a cascade from his chronic hamstring problems, with the defensive play he made being more of a trigger than a case of trauma. Percival's timeline is tough to gauge, and will perhaps depend more on the continuing effectiveness of Grant Balfour than anything else. I'd expect Percival back around September 1, though at that point, roster expansion could do a lot of things for the Rays.

Rickie Weeks (5 DXL)
News that Weeks had another thumb injury made that trade for Ray Durham look all the more prescient. Worse, it's the same left thumb that's plagued Weeks for the past three seasons. While Weeks downplayed the injury as "different" than the previous one, it's definitely worrisome. The mechanism of the injury is a bit odd, as he seems to have injured it while batting, fouling off a pitch and, according to Weeks, "bruising" the thumb. So far the thumb hasn't been as much of a problem as the right wrist, but I'm more worried about the difference between the official line of "sprain" and Weeks' description, so I'm watching this closely.

Kaz Matsui (15 DXL)
The Astros' signing of Matsui was supposed to charge up their offense, but instead it's just provided me with a lot of material. He's back on the DL with a back strain, and while when healthy he's put up similar stats to what he did in last year's Colorado campaign, I think he still has to be considered a disappointment, especially when the major concern coming in was his injury history. The back problem isn't serious and shouldn't keep him out much longer than the minimum, and Mark Loretta should wind up with the bulk of the playing time. The team isn't going to shut Matsui down, so he should be back around September 1 to still give them (and you) some steals.

Tom Glavine (45 DXL)
Glavine was coming back to try and do one thing-go out on his own terms. He was able to throw, but it was clear that the elbow was keeping him from doing much of anything effective, and the outing ended with the tendon letting go. This may have been the last time we'll have seen Glavine on the mound, as the rehab to come back from this is rather extensive, and it's unclear if Glavine will want to come back (or if the Braves will want him back). He'll head over to Birmingham later this week to be checked by Dr. Andrews, but if John Smoltz and Glavine both have their careers end this season, at least they can carpool up to Cooperstown together and maybe get in some golf rounds along the way. For now, they're just waiting to see what Greg Maddux does.

Quick Cuts: If Brad Penny is able to come back this season, it will likely be as a reliever, which means Clayton Kershaw is going to stick in the rotation despite his innings limit. The smart thing would be to use Penny as Kershaw's shadow. ... Jonathan Sanchez hit the DL with a strained shoulder. No word on the severity yet, although there are indications that he could be shut down. ... Yorvit Torrealba made it through a game behind the plate and should be able to slot back into his short-side of the playing time in Colorado. ... Carlos Silva hits the DL with, well, something! I guess "triceps soreness" is as good a reason as any to get him out of the rotation. ... Ryan Church is hitting well and made it through his first rehab game this weekend. If he can stay symptom-free, he'd be a nice addition to the Mets lineup down the stretch. ... Carl Crawford will rehab at home in Arizona. Translate that as "working out at Athlete's Performance and paying attention to those sore hamstrings." ... Maybe Nolan Ryan should be the Rangers' new pitching coach. Brandon McCarthy has thrown 13 scoreless innings since talking with Ryan about his mechanics, and will be back in the Texas rotation next week.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury,  Elbow Stiffness

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