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September 16, 2008

Under The Knife

Angels Edition

by Will Carroll

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Vladimir Guerrero (5 DXL)
Torii Hunter (7 DXL)
Erick Aybar (20 DXL)
Howie Kendrick (30 DXL)

Welcome to what might be considered "Under the Knife, Angels Edition." You'd think that with all of these injuries that the team would be struggling, but they're not. Even with a number of name players out and the division long since clinched, the Angels just keep winning. They're 7-3 through the last ten, though two of those losses came against the White Sox, the one winning team they've faced in September. Good teams beat whoever you put in front of them, and despite the injuries, the Angels' depth is doing enough to win. When the calendar flips, the team needs to not only have its best players healthy, they need to know who their best players are. Right now, it would seem that as many as four spots on the playoff roster are in doubt. With Guerrero's chronically sore knees, Hunter's ongoing problems with his quads and hamstrings, Kendrick's current hamstring issues, and Aybar's hamstring strain... oh yeah, you noticed the pattern too? None of these should hold any of the players out into the playoffs, but with Guerrero and Kendrick, their fragility has to be considered when filling out the roster. The biggest question mark in the bunch is Kendrick, who will head over to Arizona to get in some instructional league at-bats.

Chris Carpenter (20 DXL)
Carpenter is done for the season, one that barely ever got started, but there hasn't been a whole lot of information on the why. Carpenter is reportedly out with "nerve issues," though the team has made it clear that this is not a recurrence of the ulnar neuritis that caused quite a scare last spring. There are some rumors, which I could not confirm, that the problem is in his shoulder, and given the symptoms that we do know-weakness and an inability to recover-it suggests that it may be a problem in the brachial plexus, a group of nerves in the shoulder. Called "plexitis," this is a very uncommon condition, and is often mistaken for a cervical problem due to similar symptomology. The most worrisome aspect of plexitis is that it can cause weakness in the deltoid that can lead to subluxations of the humerus. A humeral subluxation can lead to labral tears, something you don't want happening to your ace. While I admit that I'm speculating here, it's based on a conversation with two physical therapists that I regularly consult with. One suggested the condition based on the symptoms, and the other concurred. The upside here is that it's usually treatable without extraordinary measures.

Mike Lowell (0 DXL)
While newspapers seem to be curling up and yellowing like last week's news, creative outlets like WEEI.com are doing more and getting results. (I can't wait to see what justification the BBWAA uses on this one.) Rob Bradford got the scoop on Lowell, who's been battling a torn acetabular labrum. The hip injury is bothersome and irritating, but doesn't reach the point of pain that often. It is something that will necessitate an eventual surgical fix, but he's playing through it pretty well, popping a home run in a big win against the Rays. It's another involved management situation for the Red Sox medical staff, but one they've been dealing with all season long. Somehow, they've managed to hold things together enough to help keep the team in the race.

B.J. Upton (7 DXL)
While Lowell is hitting homers on a bad wheel, Upton is still out with his strained quad. The Rays have been very conservative when rehabbing players, taking very slow paths in terms of their returns, while at the same time getting them quickly back to level. That worked for Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir, and bodes well for Carl Crawford, but it is frustrating at times when there's such an important series being played. Sources insist that Upton is simply not fully healed or ready to return, that the medical staff is still worried about exacerbating the injury, and that they're factoring in some extra rest for his shoulder as well. The Rays haven't panicked yet this season, so don't look for Monday's loss to force Upton back into the lineup until they're comfortable with his progress.

Joe Crede (30 DXL)
It's one thing when a team is telling people that you're done for the season. It's quite another when they clean out your locker. That's what happened with Crede, a free agent at the end of the season, but a not-insignificant part of this season's team with about a win and a half to his credit. You might notice that that's about the margin the Sox have over the Twins right now, and well above what his replacements have been able to put up. It's a bit surprising in that the Sox are very likely to be in the playoffs, and with Herm Schneider working, giving up on a return would indicate that there's truly no hope. The Sox, like every other playoff team, have injury troubles that need to be addressed by October.

Jonathan Niese (0 DXL)
While I will remind everyone that major league and minor league innings don't "cost" the same and that no one has done a "Verducci Effect" study on the minor leagues, I will note that Niese was well on his way to a new innings high even before you add in his innings with the big club. The Mets are already taking Mike Pelfrey into uncharted territory with his workload, so I have to assume they're just as conscious that Niese is going there as well. While you certainly have to like the progress he's shown shooting from Double-A to the middle of a pennant race, the Mets are smart enough (or should be) to realize that they're risking a very young arm. While flags fly forever, scars do not fade quickly.

Quick Cuts: John Maine contines to work towards a return to the Mets bullpen, while Jerry Manuel continues to treat him the way girls treat these guys. ... Does 138 pitches in nine innings really bother you more than 115 in five? That's what Johnny Cueto did Sunday, to much less outcry than Tim Lincecum's shutout. ... Jeff Kent is taking batting practice, but the Dodgers don't expect him back for more than a cameo appearance during the season. The real question is how they'll use him in the playoffs. ... Kenny Rogers has been shut down, but there's been no discussion of an injury. ... I realize that Cliff Lee has the AL Cy Young locked up, but is Daisuke Matsuzaka really not going to get any votes? ... Brandon McCarthy left his start last night with what was described as "an Adam Wainwright finger." Somewhere, Max Newberg is asking why Daddy's so mad.

Related Content:  Jonathan Niese

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