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May 1, 2009

Under The Knife

Cub Ugly

by Will Carroll

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Alex Rodriguez (30 DXL)
Rodriguez won't be back on May 1, but it won't be much longer now. His rehab game was a success, going 1-for-6 with a couple of strikeouts and a long home run. His biggest test remains ahead of him; he says that sliding under game conditions is his final hurdle. Given that he went through sliding drills with no problem, this doesn't seem to be as much of an issue as he's said. It could be that Rodriguez is just staying on script with the Yankees' conservative timeline. Of course, that was hardly the big story of his day. Instead, it was about gynecomastia. The evidence? This YouTube clip from David Letterman. If that's it, well, I guess the only thing we know is that Bif Henderson must be juicing too. Rodriguez remains on track to come back very soon, perhaps as soon as next week. Remember one key fact here that's changed since this began: his rehab has gone so well that there's a question now as to whether he'll need the "second half" of the hybrid surgery after this season. He'll need further work at some point in the future, but this has gone better than anyone expected, including me.

Travis Hafner (15 DXL)
I'll remind everyone again that heading to see Dr. Andrews isn't always a bad thing. It's never a good thing, but this knee-jerk reaction to expect the worst doesn't help anyone. That Pronk will head down to see him next week fits with the story the Indians are telling us here, and his shoulder is bound to have some residual weakness, especially if the real issue is stamina. Much as with a pitcher, any underlying problem is going to be exacerbated by weakness. The biggest variable is how fast this seemed to come on; Hafner went from starting to hitting the DL with no on-field warning. Sources tell me that this is hardly the case, with a slow deterioration to the point where the Indians' medical staff just couldn't stay ahead of it and worried this was going to get worse. It's hard to say this DL move is precautionary, but the description fits. We'll know more after Hafner's visit, but there are some positive signs. There are also some negatives, as this has some echoes of Scott Rolen's shoulder situation over the past few seasons.

Geovany Soto (3 DXL)
Aramis Ramirez (14 DXL)

It's always fun to listen to Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, but last night, Brenly did what a color man is supposed to do, especially as an ex-manager and ex-catcher, when he stated that he thought that Soto was dealing with a sore hand. I had to rewind (using a cool new MLB.tv feature) to double-check, since I wasn't focused on the game at the time, but yes, Brenly said 'hand.' Paul Sullivan followed up after the game, and Lou Piniella seemed surprised. If Soto is hiding an injury, one that he does have a history of, his horrible April might at least have an explanation, though it raises a whole new series of questions. In some better news, the Cubs don't think that Ramirez will need to go on the DL after all, though missing more than 10 days is one of those areas where you have to question the original decision. An MRI reportedly showed no tears, and the Cubs think their third baseman will be back on the field by the weekend. Sources tell me that Ramirez is saying all of the right things, but that his body language is very poor, indicating that he's more worried about the leg than he's letting on.

Carlos Marmol (0 DXL)
A bigger problem for the Cubs is Marmol's collapse. Since returning from a minor knee strain, Marmol has been putrid, giving up walks and hits in bunches. While he insists that the knee isn't the problem, there's hardly anything else to look at. Piniella spun that it was the time off that has hurt Marmol, but if so, pitching on back-to-back days really didn't seem to help. Marmol's struggles, coming after such a quick return from a minor knee sprain, show just how difficult it is to read these types of injuries. While the knee is stable and pain-free according to team sources, it is affecting his mechanics, leading to poor results. Marmol and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be spending some quality time together over the next few days, but don't expect Piniella to change his usage patterns in the short term.

Nate McLouth (10 DXL)
McLouth says that he'll be ready to return from his oblique strain on Friday, but the Pirates still want to see him pass some tests. Manager John Russell wants to see him take a normal batting practice and some fielding drills before putting him in the lineup. You can expect that Russell will be leaning close up against the cage to see if McLouth is showing any signs of discomfort or changes in his swing. While all signs are positive, make sure that you take one last look in this case, to see whether Russell's last look was good enough. Once back, McLouth shouldn't have any more problems with the oblique. Recurrences do happen with this injury, but only when they're pushed back too soon, and that doesn't appear to be the case here.

Jose Valverde (20 DXL)
You might not think that 20cc sounds like much, but it's not something you want to have happen to you, especially if you're a pitcher. Unfortunately, Valverde won't stop there either, and he'll need to have more fluid drained. The procedures, which require a small incision, will hold Valverde out a little longer as it heals and his calf adjusts, perhaps up to a week longer than the 15 days previously expected. One of the doctors I speak to regularly told me that this must have been serious, causing severe pressure on the leg, to make the team resort to this step. They're not only worried about infection, but there will often be some attendant weakness in the leg in the short term. That's definitely a concern for someone who throws heat like Valverde, and one that could be the start of a cascade.

Pablo Sandoval (1 DXL)
Former BP staffer Keith Law called Sandoval a "hitting prodigy" recently. He seems too old to be a prodigy, but you get that the guys who should know, know that they like Sandoval's skills. Unfortunately, even prodigies have groins. Sandoval left Wednesday's game with a groin strain that the team called "mild," but he did miss Thursday's game as a precaution. One of the major concerns with Sandoval is that he's not the smallest guy in the world, but he's hardly Hector Villaneuva either. This picture of Sandoval with "Friend of BP" Lisa Winston gives you some perspective. Sandoval should be fine in both the short and long term.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (0 DXL)
A catcher with vision problems? Before you start worrying, this doesn't appear to be anything along the lines of the Brian McCann saga. This was merely that intersection of seasonal allergies and contact lenses that so many of us are familiar with at this time of year. There's really nothing more here than a simple irritation. There's no connection to Saltalamacchia's previous dizziness and vertigo, which were the result of an ear infection, not a concussion as one report had it. He should miss no time, though he'll certainly bear watching to see if the problem recurs over the next few days.

Josh Hamilton (15 DXL)
There's a rumor going around—the source of which is unclear, though I've been asked by e-mail at least five times—that Hamilton's recovery from a strained intracostal muscle is being delayed by some sort of drug issue. There are versions where he's refusing pain medication, and others where he's not allowed to have pain medication. Let's be clear: Hamilton's past substance-abuse problems were never with painkillers or opiates. While there may be some reluctance on his part, sources tell me that this isn't an issue at all, and that Hamilton is progressing slowly but surely, as indicated by the team's holding him off of the DL. I also spoke with someone with insider knowledge of the drug program who clarified that Hamilton, like any player, would be allowed prescription painkillers under a therapeutic-use exemption that's "nearly automatic" if needed for pain control.

Quick Cuts: It is pretty rare to see this kind of thing, not a position player pitching, but a pitcher put into the field. ... Ervin Santana will make his first of two Triple-A rehab starts on Monday. ... Joakim Soria will be back in the closer role this weekend for the Royals. ... Brian Anderson seems headed to the DL with an oblique strain, meaning Scott Podsednik will be back in The Cell. ... Brendan Ryan, who goes by the great nickname of "B. Rabbit", hops over to the DL with a hamstring strain. ... David DeJesus was out of the lineup again on Thursday with back spasms. The big worry is that they don't seem to be abating. ... John Smoltz is having some trouble with a dead arm, but no one in-house seems all that worried by what some are calling a setback. ... I'm hearing that Chien-Ming Wang is having success in Tampa, but that's it's not going to be a quick return. ... McCann finished his rehab stint, but it's not over really. He's still trying to get his vision right. Oddly, McCann says he's had this trouble with blurry vision for over a year; production-wise, he certainly didn't seem to have any issues last year. ... Carlos Ruiz should be back with the Phillies by the start of next week after doing well in his rehab games. ... Eric Chavez was scratched with a strained right forearm, his latest cascade injury. ... A great story from Jim Caple on all things Zimmerman.

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