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April 13, 2009

Under The Knife

Help, I've Fallen and I...

by Will Carroll

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Brandon Webb (15 DXL)
While others spent the weekend looking for hidden eggs, I was doing a search of my own, trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with the D'backs' ace. There's some discrepancy between the public diagnosis and the symptomology, as well as some confusion about the treatment. The MRI taken on Friday found a swollen bursa sac in his shoulder, one that's already responding to treatment, though one report of his saying that massage is helping just confuses matters, since the injury shouldn't respond to that. I can only guess that Webb's shoulder merely felt better after a massage, and he came to a less than scientific conclusion. Bursitis is easily controlled in most situations, but the Diamondbacks aren't taking any chances, pushing him to the DL. The key here is that the inflammation should be easily controlled, allowing his shoulder to move normally. With his velocity down last time out, we have to think that he wasn't able to get full force despite his normal mechanics, but once the inflammation is gone, the velocity should come back quickly. There's no way to know this before seeing it, so we're acting on faith. That said, it wasn't long ago that Dr. Andrews concluded that the shoulder was fine. Even with this move, I still think that Webb will be back at the minimum, showing a return to form.

Mark Teixeira (5 DXL)
Teixeira missed the weekend's games with tendonitis, saying that it happened after he had fallen and landed on his wrist. So, we have a usually chronic condition brought on by a traumatic event. The more likely result after that kind of fall would be a minor strain or sprain (if it weren't involving tendons, which we assume it is, since the Yanks are calling it tendonitis). Teixeira's normal slow start doesn't usually include an injury. While he's expected back by Monday, sources tell me that the team will move to a cortisone injection if the pain and swelling aren't gone by then, which would cost him a few more games. The concern once he returns is that it may sap him of some power; a sure thing in the short term, but much tougher to read for the longer term. We may look back at his April '09 line and think it was just another slow start.

Cole Hamels (0 DXL)
After Hamels looked more like Jamie Moyer than the Hamels we're used to in first start, Phillies phans began to panic. A lack of innings might explain the lack of command, but not the significant loss of velocity. His elbow pain doesn't explain the velocity loss either, though with his extra work on the side, it could be that his mechanics are out of whack enough that he's unable to get into the ball. Hamels didn't report any issues with the elbow, so there is some positive news. Scheduled to go on Thursday, the Phillies are watching Hamels, and may elect to push him back if they don't see an improvement in his velocity and command. It's too early to be worried, but another (literally) slow start will set off panic.

Hiroki Kuroda (20 DXL)
It caught almost everyone by surprise when Kuroda went on the DL. The Dodgers quickly made the move, pulling up Eric Stults from Albuquerque in the midst of a span of offdays that will deflate the fifth starter's role. His oblique strain happened in his first start, though he didn't report the problem until his bullpen session. The pain and tightness in the muscle were "significant," I'm told, and it could be as long as a month before he's ready. Joe Torre gave Kuroda the Opening Day start as something of a message that he was going to be the leader of the staff. Without him, it's going to be very difficult to limit the innings on Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald early in the season, which could make the thin Dodger rotation a real problem during the second half that might require an acquisition. This could be where Pedro Martinez finds an opening.

Chipper Jones (1 DXL)
Jones plays through major injuries, so it should be no surprise that he's playing through a bruise on his left thumb. According to sources the injury affects him more from the right side, though none of them could explain to me exactly why. He did hit a home run while playing through it, and he may have aggravated it by hitting for power, since he hasn't hit for an extra base since having to take the day off. Don't be surprised to see Bobby Cox find him another day off sometime this week, even with Monday's scheduled break, but Jones essentially writes his own name into the lineup. Assuming that this is as minor as it appears, he should only be diminished for about a week, though you never really know with him. Some players can play through pain, but few excel doing it the way that Jones has throughout his career.

Geovany Soto (7 DXL)
The Cubs have been getting by with a hobbled Koyie Hill while visiting Milwaukee, and they seem to think that the wait to DL Soto will pay off. Using the Injury Cost calculation, we can estimate how much the Cubs saved: If Soto returns as scheduled on Wednesday, the eight days they get back will mean about $600,000 in value saved, or about a half-win. That's a very smart move, even though it pushed Hill to play through a swollen toe. No offense to Hill, but he's relatively easy to replace with a call to Iowa. Soto's shoulder impingement is one of those things that will recur from time to time, but as a known condition, the Cubs should be able to treat it. The concern is that since it appears to be so quick to aggravate ("fast zero to sixty" as one ATC put it), they might not get much warning.

Carlos Ruiz (20 DXL)
I always like finding out who the emergency catcher on a team is, and I think it's something that should be listed on the roster. Most teams freak out at the concept of ever actually using that player, pushing them to put their Triple-A insurance policy on a plane at the slightest hint of trouble. That's exactly what the Phillies did when Ruiz strained an oblique. His strain is reportedly a significant one that could keep him out for as long as six weeks, though the Phillies hope to have a better handle on the time line once they can get him into an active rehab plan. The interesting thing here is that Ruiz didn't injure himself throwing, but trying to catch a pop foul. (I'm still trying to figure out that mechanism and whether it means anything.) In the meantime, Chris Coste will see the bulk of the playing time, which could serve to convince them that Coste's defense isn't as bad as they think.

Jorge Cantu (2 DXL)
Cantu has a very odd-looking career line; a low-OBP slugger who had a lost 2007 season that wasn't as bad as you'd expect, and a surge into his peak years that makes Larry Beinfest look like a genius. Cantu injured his hand when he got plunked, then aggravated it on a play at the bag which sent him back to square one. The injury is nothing more than a painful bruise that makes it difficult to grip the bat or catch the ball, but once it's cleared up, there shouldn't be any lingering effects or drain on his power. The Marlins will try to rest him while the medical staff works to minimize the time missed, but there's a surprising lack of flexibility on this roster, even with Ross Gload around.

Vladimir Guerrero (0 DXL)
Guerrero is at a stage in his career where the shift to DH is inevitable. The wear of his various injuries-back, knee, shoulder-are pushing him from a plus outfielder down to the DH slot in much the same way that it did to Garret Anderson. Anderson never had Guerrero's cannon of an arm, but it's the same pattern we've seen from player after player. Guerrero had hoped to play in the field this weekend, but continued problems with his shoulder nixed that. The problem is actually in his pectoral, where it connects up near the shoulder, which has led to some confusion about the injury. While he can throw, he can't do it without some pain and some possibility of aggravating the injury. On the hitting side, it may be costing him a little power as well. Sources tell me that the team wants to make sure that he's 100 percent before putting him back in the field, so they may move more slowly than expected in order to avoid the possibility of setback. The problem now is that Guerrero is the type of player who is simply going to have unavoidable setbacks, testing the Angels' flexibility more than their depth.

Alex Rodriguez (25 DXL)
It's becoming clear that Rodriguez is going to return early, unless the Yankees simply hold him back. The difference between where he is now and where he needs to be to get back in the lineup is relatively small. He'll need a week or so of conditioning and agility work, a week or so of fielding and hitting, and he's there. Toss in a few rehab games, likely somewhere in the system to make an affiliate happy, and then he's back in pinstripes. So why do the Yankees and some analysts insist he won't be back until May 15? For the team, it's simple conservatism and expectation management. For the rest, it's a failure to understand that his fanatical conditioning and drive have been a major factor here. Say what you will about Rodriguez, but "out of shape" and "lazy" aren't going to be on the list. He probably won't be able to push his way into the lineup much before May 1, but there's simply no reason now for the Yankees to hold him out much longer than that.

Quick Cuts: Milton Bradley left Sunday night's game with a groin strain. No word on severity yet, so I'll follow it. ... Anything bad I've ever said about Jerry Manuel, I'll take back if he sticks to this. Is it easier to do this when your closer just signed a big-money, long-term deal? ... B.J. Ryan continues to have no velocity and get knocked around. The Jays continue to insist that there's no physical problem. If so, isn't that worse? ... The Indians have shut down Scott Lewis after finding a flexor tendon strain. He'll miss about a month. ... B.J. Upton will be back with the Rays on Monday and is expected to be in the lineup daily, though I'm sure he'll be watched closely. Don't panic if Joe Maddon finds him some time off during the first few weeks. ... Joey Votto banged his knee in a home-plate collision, showing just how severe those can be. It was just bad luck, but the Reds can't afford to lose him at all. ... Joe Martinez is just the latest pitcher to be hit by a comebacker. How long have we been talking about this, with no equipment changes to help prevent it? If you make hats, call me-I have some ideas. ... Marlins prospect Logan Morrison has broken his thumb and will miss a few months. ... If you were counting on Kelvim Escobar before May 1, you're out of luck. If you're counting on him at all, things aren't looking that great there either. ... The Red Sox are always very protective with Jonathon Papelbon's shoulder, so holding him out after a four-out, 39-pitch save is to be expected. It's the lack of control, and what one observer called a "disconnected-looking delivery" with some release point issues that has me watching more closely.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Shoulder

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