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August 21, 2008

Under The Knife

Limits

by Will Carroll

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Josh Beckett (9 DXL)
My rule is that if I don't have something to add to the conversation, I just don't say anything. The e-mailing minions of Red Sox Nation didn't like that I took a day off from the UTK grind while Beckett was dealing with a mysterious tingling feeling, and I don't think they would take kindly to my just ignoring the issue. I'll be clear: I don't know what's wrong with him, nor do my sources, and even my advisers don't have much of an idea what's going on. The description of tingling and numbness in his fourth and fifth fingers along with the absence of any other symptoms simply doesn't match up with anything. One clue that a doctor on the UTK Advisory Board seemed stuck on was his wildness, thinking that it might show some sort of kinesthetic deficit and perhaps an associated elbow problem. A quick look through the Gameday data doesn't seem to show anything. The symptomology matches up best with carpal tunnel syndrome, though there's no pain involved. Some looked at Beckett's history of finger problems (blisters) that might indicate a circulation issue, while others point to Beckett's neck pain earlier this season, thinking it could be some sort of double crush syndrome. It could be as simple as sleeping on it in a position that put his arm "to sleep." In other words, I don't know what it is, but I've been working on this and will continue to do so. Beckett's next start will be delayed, but the team is not putting him on the DL, and they don't seem inclined to do so, though this could have more to do with the time of year (roster expansion in less than 15 days away) than his health.

Hanley Ramirez (1 DXL)
Headlines suck. "Ramirez Exits Game With Injured Thumb" really doesn't tell you anything, but I bet a lot of fantasy owners and Marlins fans felt their hearts jump when they saw it. Ramirez jammed his thumb sliding into second base, but it turns out to be nothing more than a garden-variety ouchie. X-rays were negative, and as it turns out Ramirez has a nice bruise at the base of the thumb, nothing more. Fredi Gonzalez thinks that Ramirez could play today, though that all depends on how his thumb responds overnight. This one shouldn't be a major issue; nothing more than a day or two if the Marlins play it conservatively with their star.

Ian Kinsler (20 DXL)
There can be some value in second opinions, and the one that Kinsler got may give hope that he can avoid surgery and play again this season. The idea is that the sports hernia, if it gets worse, could still be corrected in time for spring training '09, so the main risk now is that Ian Kinsler could be playing in pain if he comes back. Most players, especially ones as intense as Kinsler, gladly take on that kind of risk. The team's concern is for the long term, and sports hernias tend not to be long-term problems once corrected. He'll still miss at least the next two weeks, and the rest of the season is in doubt, but Rangers fans are starting to get used to a new feeling of hope.

Billy Wagner (30 DXL)
Wagner came out of yesterday's tests with ... well, not much. The Mets closer won't be throwing any time soon, but the chance is still there for a return this season, which is better news than most expected. Still, the flexor tendon in his elbow is inflamed and painful, which means that the Mets will have to find a way to patch up the end of their bullpen before he even has a chance of getting back. The team and Wagner both insist he'll be back this season, but as we've seen time and again, this type of injury seems to have a tipping point where, once it's crossed, the pitcher simply can't get back without re-aggravating the problem. The other curious part of this is the fatigue factor. Wagner's injury may have been brought on by the seasonal wear and tear that he's always dealt with-seemingly earlier each season-but on the plus side this injury could help him stay fresh further into October, much in the same way that the blister worked for Kerry Wood. We'll see, but one way or another, there are a lot of Wagner-related pixels in this column ahead of us.

Chris Carpenter (15 DXL)
Adam Wainwright (60 DXL)
Jason Isringhausen (45 DXL)

Everything with the Cardinals seems to be interrelated. I can't talk about Isringhausen's career-ending elbow injury without saying that it could have shifted Wainwright back to the pen. I can't talk about Wainwright's yo-yo rehab without saying that it's still possible that he could head to the closer's role, although the Cards' closer of the future, Chris Perez, appears to be the closer of the present. I can't talk about Wainwright without noting that his rehab has been keyed off of the availability of Carpenter. Carpenter has made it through a few throwing sessions without more problems in his shoulder, and is now headed for a big test on Friday when he throws a full bullpen session. That will decide whether or not he's ready to return, which will then decide Wainwright's role; for his part, Wainwright could start on Friday either way. Whatever the outcomes, it's a tangled situation as the Cardinals fight, scratch, and claw to hang onto their playoff hopes.

Luke Hochevar (30 DXL)
At the game on Monday, it was as if David Price's first name was "First pick in the '07 draft." Hochevar might know that feeling too, as he's had a nice season in the majors, in the sense that he's sort of made it through it, but it's hardly the kind of season we would expect from a first overall pick. He's somewhere in between the disappointment of Brian Bullington and the hope of Price, but with years left to put things together. For now, he'll have to wait, as the Royals had to put him on the DL with an oblique strain. While this isn't anything more than your normal oblique strain, the timing and recovery might put him in the zone where it makes more sense to shut him down for the year than to have him come back for just one or two starts.

Chien-Ming Wang (120 DXL)
The Yankees are acknowledging that Wang isn't going to make it back this season, and that given the pace of his progress he would not be available even if they make it to October. There's no reason to think he'll be adversely affected by the injury heading into 2009, so he remains a solid keeper, though it has to be disappointing to think how much difference one flukish play made to this AL team because their pitcher had to hit. It's something like the position shift modifier for injury risk; since AL pitchers aren't used to hitting, when they do have to, they're more likely to be injured. Granted that Wang is the first pitcher to be injured on the bases in a long time, but it's still worth noting. The other interesting tell here is that the Yankees are beginning to think past 2008. That leaves open some small possibility that they'll start shutting people down, perhaps guys like Joba Chamberlain and Philip Hughes.

Gil Meche (0 DXL)
One of my favorite pitching observers sent me this: "Meche is pitching well, but starting is either laboring, or [he] was looking like he was hurting ... everything was up in the strike zone and his body language changes ... Looks like he was flexing his hand a bit for a while. He got out with about 105 pitches and had a good game, but had moments of 'something' there a few times in the later inning." 'Something' in this context isn't good, so it's worth keeping your eye on. It's the point in the season where fatigue is beginning to mount and make an impact on different pitchers, and small things can turn into bigger ones. It's also the point where teams see this and start thinking about shutting people down, especially when they're, you know, the Royals.

Quick Cuts: Get well soon, Yaz. ... Tom Glavine doesn't have a torn UCL, leaving the door open for a return next season. ... Rich Harden is right, all he needs to do is pitch. ... Ryan Braun was given Wednesday off due to a scheduled Thursday offday. The Brewers are hoping the extra rest will help. ... Erik Bedard is unlikely to pitch again this season, making it a tougher sales job for the next Mariners GM this winter. ... I'm still not talking about Carl Pavano, but I'm not surprised he found an injury before he might have been asked to pitch in a real game. At least Barry Zito takes the ball. ... If I still did "powered by" regularly, I would have been powered by The Gaslight Anthem. Worth checking out. ... George Sherrill isn't expected to miss much beyond the minimum with his shoulder injury.

Related Content:  Ian Kinsler,  Year Of The Injury

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