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April 5, 2009

Under The Knife

Opening Day Uncertainties

by Will Carroll

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There is a game tonight, and I'll watch it, but I refuse to acknowledge that "Opening Day" could be anything other than the first Monday. Every team should play, not just in the majors, but everywhere-minor league, college, high school, and little league. It should be a national holiday, and everyone should take off work. America didn't come back from September 11 with a kickoff, we did it with a pitch. Powered by #671, on to the injuries:

Ichiro Suzuki (10 DXL)
A bleeding ulcer? No one saw this coming. Suzuki is in peak physical condition and has a Zen halo surrounding him, and he'll only miss the minimum in his first trip to the DL. The long-term concern is that his conditioning will be slightly down or that he may lose stamina, though Ichiro starts at a higher level than most. This is likely just a sign that he's mortal. The medication seems to be working, and Suzuki is only expected to miss eight games. There has been some discussion of how the M's will handle his return, but it looks as if he'll be close enough to go full-out, and he'll use some extended spring training games to get his swing back up to snuff.

Ervin Santana (30 DXL)
Several of you have asked why Santana hadn't been placed on the DL as of Saturday afternoon. There's really no reason to make the move before the final 25-man rosters have to be in, nor is there any reason not to. As the expected DXL figure reflects, they don't need the retro move since Santana will be out more than fifteen days from the maximum backdate, so in essence, they just haven't bothered yet. Santana is doing well in his rehab, progressing to long toss and ready to move to the mound within the next ten days. He's on track for a return around May 1, but there are still a number of hoops he'll have to jump through in his rehab. We'll have plenty of warning when he begins an assignment that could involve as many as three starts.

Justin Morneau (0 DXL)
It's bad enough that Joe Mauer is going to begin the season on the DL, but the Twins simply can't hope to compete if they're missing both "M's" for any significant portion of the season. Morneau's missing time late in spring training with a stiff lower back raises some warning flags. The Twins are being cautious at this stage, so the time he's missed so far is hardly a good gauge of just how serious this is. Instead, we've got to go to the sources, who tell me that it's one of those injuries that's minor but troubling. The team hasn't succeeded in helping to rid him of the stiffness in his back, and worse, it seems to be most affected by hitting. The Twins are considering putting Morneau on the DL, but they already lack flexibility with the current injuries and the glut in the outfield/DH slot. There's some consideration being given to playing Michael Cuddyer at first base; that could open things up a little, but no decision has been made. Morneau did play on Saturday, so that's a positive.

Scott Baker (10 DXL)
Baker wasn't exactly having a good spring, but he went from "working on pitches" to the DL in such a short time that many wondered what happened. There's always the possibility that roster moves can influence how these situations are handled; they may be trying to decide between Phil Humber and R.A. Dickey, or choosing to free up another slot for a backup catcher. Sources insist that Baker has had only minor soreness, and that it hasn't become better or worse. Combine all of these factors with the poor results that he's been having and it looks as if the team is merely trying to make sure he's not pitching through an injury, and they'll take the opportunity to give him a few starts in Ft. Myers under controlled conditions where he can be watched closely. Everything I'm hearing indicates that the Twins' expectations of Baker missing only one or two starts will hold true.

Trevor Hoffman (15 DXL)
Chris Capuano (90 DXL)

The Brewers tend to take a conservative approach to injuries, and while it pays off in making sure their players return healthy, that extra time incurs some loss as well. It appears that's the case now. Hoffman has missed much of spring training with a strained oblique, and there is still no solid timetable for when he'll be back. Age is something of a factor here, but not so much that he should be missing more than the back end of a normal four- to six-week recovery period. He's still not throwing from a mound, but he'll be back quickly once he does. It's unclear if the Brewers will keep him in Arizona or give him a few outings somewhere in the minors, and until then, they'll go with a committee to close games, despite the rumors that Carlos Villanueva was first in line for saves. The Brewers also received some bad news about Capuano. His rehab from Tommy John surgery will be slowed by some swelling where the ligament was attached, but he was ahead of schedule, so this shouldn't be that bad in the long run. He'll be back on the mound sometime in May, and the Brewers still think he could be in the rotation mix by mid season. (Yes, the rotation. They believe that his terrible run prior to surgery can be blamed on the injury.)

Brad Penny (0 DXL)
Penny was clocked at 96 mph in his last outing; not bad for a guy with shoulder issues. After a few minor setbacks early in spring training, he hasn't had much trouble either in games or in between. His recovery and stamina are the biggest concerns, though hitting 96 at this stage is a very good sign. There's a confluence of building up stamina and hitting the first big wall of fatigue here at the end of training, a time when we can figure out if a player is making a full recovery between starts. That's one test that Penny has passed, but don't be overconfident and start bidding him up. He's always been better during the first half of the season, but last year he didn't win a game after May 2 and had clearly lost it. The Sox are hoping they can keep him together, but I'm not sure how much more they can expect. Will June 1 be considered a win for them?

Takashi Saito (0 DXL)
Last year's elbow problems haven't cropped up again for Saito, making him a set-up role option for the Red Sox. What seems to be escaping attention is that it's the experimental procedure done on him at Kerlan-Jobe last season that's allowed him to pitch at all. While Dr. Neal ElAttrache still isn't taking credit, the platelet-rich plasma injection has to be considered a success, allowing Saito not only to come back to pitch last year, but also to hold up through spring training. No one, not even Saito, has any idea how his elbow will fare this season. It will be interesting to find out, as well as to watch for who's going to become the second pitcher to have the procedure done. (I wonder, would Ervin Santana be helped by this?)

Justin Duchscherer (30 DXL)
Joey Devine (90 DXL)

Elbow surgery is never minor for a pitcher, especially one with a medical file as thick as Duchscherer's. (Will that "thick" adjective stick as teams shift to online medical records?) He had bone chips cleared out of his pitching elbow, and there was no further damage found. He'll be throwing in a couple of weeks, and he shouldn't be out for much longer than a month, though he may not have any control of where he slots back in. The A's will be watching to see if he's needed more in the pen or the rotation while he's out, with a bias towards him starting when he returns. The team is unsettled in both areas, so Duchscherer's flexibility is a definite asset, and he's not a bad fantasy stash either way if you have the roster space. The A's aren't waiting to see what Dr. Andrews has to say about Devine. They placed him on the 60-day DL, indicating that this is far worse than just a sore arm. Sources have been telling me for weeks that he's headed for Tommy John surgery, but I haven't been able to confirm it. Duchscherer may become even more valuable if Devine is lost.

Quick Cuts: Instead of a normal Quick Cuts today, I'm going to monitor the comments and answer any last minute questions you might have. I'll be in Cincinnati on Wednesday, stopping by at the Red Reporter get-together, and if you're in the area, it should be a nice game (Edinson Volquez versus Mike Pelfrey). Hope to see a couple of you there, though we will be doing a full-on Pizza Feed in Cincinnati in late April or early May.

Related Content:  Back,  Elbow Stiffness

46 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

larry

Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon both have exceeded expectations by being on the Opening Day roster and apparently are on track to make starts during the first turn of the rotation. Obviously the White Sox training staff have earned trust by now but are there any concerns with their quicker than expected return (especially w/r/t to Colon) and will they be on pitch counts? Thanks.

Apr 05, 2009 09:39 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

This starts off with the wrong notion that these (or any other pitchers) can be saved by pitch counts. Pitch counts are a simple way of doing something for a broad population, but they're vastly over-used and over-simplified. Can Colon go 100 pitches and come back in five? 80? 120? We don't know.

Neither is back earlier than expected. Colon's coming off a season where he couldn't stay healthy and Contreras is on a normal timeline post-ATR.

Concerns? Oh yeah. This will be a challenge for the Sox, but they have some depth. Clayton Richard isn't a star, but he's better than a bad Colon.

Apr 05, 2009 10:18 AM
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Let me clarify ... Richard would be better than Colon if Colon isn't pitching well. I'm saying they can push "eject" on Colon, not that he's bad now.

Apr 05, 2009 10:21 AM
 
larry

Well, I find it hard to believe that guys who haven't thrown more than about 70 pitches (Colon) and about 85 (Contreras) in games are going to be throwing 120 pitches next Saturday. The stamina just doesn't seem there for either yet.

And I realize it oversimplifies things. But I'm more interested in what teams actually do instead of theory. Perhaps I should rephrase: have you heard anything about the White Sox keeping either pitcher on an inning or pitch count for their first few starts?

Apr 05, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Not specifically, but I think you're not going to see many complete games anywhere around the league.

Apr 05, 2009 15:01 PM
 
Peter Hood

The Blue Jays seem to be considering an ultra-cautious approach with Dustin McGowan with Gaston wondering if it wouldn't be better to shut him down for 2009 altogether. is this conservative approach warranted? Necessary?

Apr 05, 2009 09:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

What's cautious about not pitching a player that's had multiple setbacks after shoulder surgery? His throwing program results in swelling and pain. That's not conservativism, that's inability at this point.

Apr 05, 2009 10:23 AM
 
xbenn3000

What's the latest on Matt Lindstrom and BJ Ryan? Will they be available, and called on, to close on Opening Day?

Apr 05, 2009 09:57 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Lindstrom is close to 100%, but the Marlins will watch him closely and Leo Nunez might get some saves, esp in back to back situations.

Ryan's a tougher one. His velocity is way off, but the Jays insist there's no injury. I don't know how Gaston will handle the situation if Ryan can't get outs with Trevor Hoffman fastballs.

Apr 05, 2009 10:25 AM
 
Scott D. Simon

Will... More AL East questions: Do you have an update on T.Snider's knee? And was Joba left behind in Florida to monitor an injury or just to keep him on schedule to be the 5th starter?

Keep up the good work!

Apr 05, 2009 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Nothing new on Snider's knee. Still trying to figure out why they sounded concerned. Joba's just to be on schedule.

Apr 05, 2009 12:32 PM
 
npullano

How's Rich Harden doing these days?

Apr 05, 2009 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I'm hearing a bit of dead arm. The velocity is always a concern with Harden.

Apr 05, 2009 12:35 PM
 
cyborg

How about the status of Bronson Arroyo?

Apr 05, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

The Reds sent Bailey down, but don't need a fifth starter until mid-month. Something I'm definitely going to ask about tomorrow.

Apr 05, 2009 12:34 PM
 
sdfdranger

Will thanks for the info, it's one of the main reasons I subscribe.
Is there a chance that any of these guys will return to anything close to what they used to be?
Wagner, Chad Cordero, Prior, Mulder and Schmidt.
Keep up the good work!

Apr 05, 2009 11:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Billy Wagner? Normal TJ
No.
No.
No.
Maybe? He's kind of like Penny.

Apr 05, 2009 12:34 PM
 
sdfdranger

thanks!

Apr 05, 2009 15:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Mike V.
(596)

When are 25-man rosters due?

Apr 05, 2009 11:35 AM
rating: 0
 
bflaff

Hey Will, so true about Opening Day. I want a full slate of games, first pitch in Cincy, the whole deal. This opening night one off is weak.

Apr 05, 2009 11:36 AM
rating: 0
 
bctowns

At least they aren't doing this ultra lame opening series in a foreign country thing.

Apr 05, 2009 12:31 PM
rating: 3
 
dtwhite

What's BJ Upton's timetable? Will he be at "peak" level as soon as he comes back, or will he have any lingering issues?

Apr 05, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

He'll be back in the minimum. I anticipated this, as did most Rays watchers, with roster issues and with the opening two series in cold weather.

Apr 05, 2009 12:33 PM
 
mafrth77

Will- what is up with Harden? In Buster Onley's column today it said he was throwing 85-89.

Apr 05, 2009 12:14 PM
rating: 0
 
havybeaks

Regarding Mauer... I've seen talk of moving him to 3B due to the back issues, but is 3B any easier on the spine than catcher? There's lots of bending and twisting while bent over at third, but I'm not sure if the location of Mauer's pain is the same as most cases of lumbar inflammation. Thanks!

Apr 05, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Easier? Yes. Different? Yes. Would you rather stand or crouch for three hours, each getting the same rest? All things equal, which they aren't. traumatic injuries could happen in either position.

Also important to note that Mauer has an SI joint inflam, not a lumbar.

Apr 05, 2009 15:05 PM
 
Pietaster07

So Hanley Ramirez and his shoulder should be fine for the season, right? Same with Lindstrom and his inflammation?Glad to start a new season with you Will Carroll, always enjoy ur injury analysis.

Apr 05, 2009 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
casey

Max Scherzer had a strong outing on Friday. Do you still see stamina, rather than injury, being his main obstacle as a starter? Is there concern about a cascade scenario between shoulder and elbow?

Apr 05, 2009 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

There's always concern up and down the kinetic chain. With Scherzer, the concerns are more about his recovery than his stamina. He *can* start, but can he keep starting over and over and over?

Apr 05, 2009 15:03 PM
 
sdfdranger

Two more pitchers: Hudson and Sheets, ok? eta?
thanks!

Apr 05, 2009 15:47 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Hudson is on track for normal TJ, which might have him back in the second half.

Sheets is still recovering from flexor tendon repair, hopes to be back in the second half, but won't throw before May.

Apr 06, 2009 05:05 AM
 
apilgrim

Will Carroll, you are solid gold.

Apr 05, 2009 16:22 PM
rating: 0
 
allstonrock

Will - was wondering what other pitchers have had arm stiffness similar to what Baker is having, and what their season's turned out like.

Apr 05, 2009 17:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Lou Doench

Hey Will, which of the Red Reporter locations will yah be at? Gameday Cafe or Rookwood? (I'm guessing gameday makes the most sense for an out of towner now that I think of it.)

Apr 05, 2009 17:58 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I'll be joining them at the game on Wednesday, assuming no more snow! Looks like I've been snowed out -- the downside of having to drive down to Cincy is that the roads are an issue.

Apr 06, 2009 05:09 AM
 
dzahniser

I will be at the Reds/Mets game Wednesday and would lover to meet you. How do we find you?

Apr 05, 2009 19:03 PM
rating: 0
 
dzahniser

Whoops. Would like to meet you.

Apr 05, 2009 19:05 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Check with the Red Reporter group. I've got to do some coverage before the game, then will sneak down after a couple innings in the press box.

Apr 06, 2009 05:06 AM
 
JOESAV

Great job Will--Big Tiger fan---any updates on Willis or Bonderman-thx.

Apr 05, 2009 19:34 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Nothing new on either. Following closely.

Apr 06, 2009 05:06 AM
 
funsucker

How do you see Kelvim Escobar's return going? From what I read, the velocity is fine and he's ahead of schedule...but labrum surgery? Can pitchers hope to make it back from that with their full skills intact?

Apr 05, 2009 21:15 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

It's possible, if not probable. The jump in this in just five years is amazing. My oft-quoted Slate article is simply obsolete. The worry is stamina.

Apr 06, 2009 05:08 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Damn it. They could have saved my fastball.

Apr 06, 2009 05:20 AM
 
jrbdmb

Will, you mention that you had previously heard info on Devine but had not "confirmed" it. In general, who provides this confirmation? Official team sources, unofficial team sources, other? Also, how do you decide to either publish the data you have on hand vs. sit on it waiting for further confirmation?

Apr 06, 2009 04:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Two solid sources is my standard. I couldn't get them to agree enough, though I had more than two on this.

Apr 06, 2009 05:07 AM
 
oystertoadfish

So, Nick Johnson is healthy? Really? Actually?

Also, Dmitri Young, should we expect to see him get more than a handful of major league AB's this year? And in the long run, are people worried for his health, not as a baseball player but as a person? People with diabetes who can't control their weight can run into very serious health problems.

Thanks for the great work.

Apr 06, 2009 05:31 AM
rating: 0
 
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