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May 13, 2009

Under The Knife

The Fourth or Fifth Seal

by Will Carroll

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Derek Jeter (1 DXL)
I can never remember-is Jeter's hitting the DL with an oblique strain the fourth or fifth seal? I get mixed up on the signs of the Bronxocalypse. The good news is that Jeter's oblique strain-reported in three different places as "just a strain," as if that's good-isn't bad enough to put him on the DL at this point. Oblique strains are difficult to get a read on early, they're susceptible to exacerbation, and Jeter is so good at corporate-speak that he'd probably make you believe he was fine if a bone was sticking out of his leg. He's dealt with this before, so he understands the risks and rewards of catching it early. While he believes that he'll be back on Wednesday, the Yankees could decide to be more conservative. Either way, watch this one over the next week or so to make sure that Jeter doesn't make it worse. I'm betting he doesn't; if health is a skill, it's one Jeter has always had.

Kevin Youkilis (15 DXL)
As Youkilis heads to the DL, most of the e-mails and tweets focus on "what changed." The fact is that nothing has changed, and that's the problem. Youkilis' oblique didn't show the progress that their medical team was looking for, pushing them to put him on the shelf. As I said above, obliques are tough to get a read on, and the original injury can often be worsened if a player tries to dial it up before it's fully healed. The Sox used the DL (and a retro move that has him eligible to return next week) to give themselves a little more depth with their infield hurting all the way around. Dustin Pedroia is also still out, expected back on Wednesday after a mild groin strain, and Julio Lugo and Mike Lowell are both post-surgical. This type of injury stack would tax most teams, so the next week will be key for the Sox.

Carlos Delgado (15 DXL)
The Mets' medical staff is working hard in front of a Friday deadline. Delgado's hip is once again the issue, with the discomfort keeping him off of the field until at least then, and likely longer. His most recent problem is the result of a cascade; after being hit on the knee by a pitch, it threw his gait off just enough that it triggered the pain/spasm cycle, and worse, it began to swell. Delgado has had extensive imaging done and there's no truth to the rumor that he's headed for the same type of hip surgery as Chase Utley and Alex Rodriguez had. The Mets may wish that it was that simple and correctable, but instead they're dealing with a chronic change in the joint that's not unlike arthritis. At this stage, given the state both of Delgado's hip and of the Mets, I think he'll end up on the DL with this issue, in hopes that the doctors will be able to use the rest to stay ahead of the problem.

Conor Jackson (15 DXL)
Several e-mailers asked if Jackson's shift to the DL was more "Mendoza Flu" than flu-like symptoms. That's always a concern when an unexpected move is made with a vague diagnosis for a struggling player on an underperforming team. Sources tell me that his illness has been lingering not just for days, but for weeks, and they think that his performance has been suffering. It's curious that the team used him as a pinch-hitter on Monday, throwing off the retro move, but they don't seem concerned. They'll have less overlap, but also less depth now as the team rights itself-or hopes to-under new manager A.J. Hinch. Aside from the Brandon Webb loss, it's not the injuries that have put the Diamondbacks in this position. Jackson is expected back at the minimum.

Carlos Quentin (5 DXL)
With Jackson on the DL and sporting a 517 OPS, some D'back fans might be reminding people that they could have had Quentin on their team instead of swapping him to the Sox. Never mind that the trade would never have happened that way, and ignore that Quentin's been hurt much more than Jackson, though he has been more productive when healthy. The Sox will be without Quentin this week as they try to get him past a painful heel issue. He's had an injection, raising some concerns that this is plantar fasciitis. There's no evidence to indicate that this is the case, but given Quentin's continued problems at bat and in the field, this certainly bears watching to see if the painkillers clear up the problem and enable him to get back to mashing.

Ryan Ludwick (3 DXL)
"It didn't pop or anything of that nature," Ludwick told reporters after the game. Ludwick left Tuesday's game with a hamstring strain after stretching out on a defensive play, the type of overextension that can lead to a physical problem. His pronouncement that it was more of a cramp than a pop is a positive, but already down one starting outfielder, the Cards don't have the depth to deal with an extended Ludwick absence right now. Early word from sources has them holding him out a game or two while they make sure this doesn't turn into something that will expose that depth. Look for Ludwick to be back by the weekend.

John Lackey (45 DXL)
Ervin Santana (45 DXL)

The Angels have survived the first month or so of the season with a pitching staff that's been beset by injuries, tragedy, and simple bad luck, but they didn't fall out of contention, which is as much due to the division as anything that the team has done. The front office stayed with their simple "who's next" strategy, and Mike Scioscia stuck to playing the hand he was dealt. Success? Yes, I think it has to be looked at that way, especially if getting Santana and Lackey back this week plays out the way it should. The Angels haven't made a final decision yet, but the timeline would have Santana taking the ball on Friday and Lackey on Saturday, both on schedule from their final rehab starts. Neither is up to a full workload yet, so they'd be pitch-limited and throwing in Texas, so it might be best to sit back and watch that first start before activating them. The Angels don't have that luxury, and they need to make a statement to a Texas team that's been gaining some confidence.

Carlos Zambrano (20 DXL)
Zambrano will make a rehab start this weekend for High-A Daytona, his first step back from his hamstring strain. No one seems to expect him to have much trouble, and the date puts him just behind the minimum, as expected. The Cubs will be watching closely to make sure that he's showing no changes in his mechanics, and one team source is curious to see how his velocity and arm slot look. Rest is key for both Zambrano and for Rich Harden, so it's good that the Cubs are taking note, even if they haven't figured out ways to buy some extra days for their top two starters. A solid first start by Randy Wells could keep him in the rotation over Sean Marshall, but six credible starters plus Jeff Szamardzija in Iowa seems to give them the parts to do so if they wish.

Jake Westbrook (60 DXL)
Tommy John surgery is predictable, which makes players coming back from the procedure predictable as well. The Indians are beginning to get an idea of exactly when Westbrook will be back in their rotation. A Monday outing in extended spring training went well enough that the team thinks he could be up to a starter's workload by the end of the month and in the rotation by June. Remember that he may seem to be a bit behind the normal TJS schedule-he had his elbow surgery in June 2008-but most didn't notice that Westbrook also had his hip 'scoped late last year. With both problems corrected, Westbrook should be able to get right back to where he was, an innings-eater that will take some pressure off of both the rotation and the Indians' pen.

Quick Cuts: Late word that Hideki Matsui left the game with a tight hamstring. Tough day in the Bronx. ... You never like to see a player almost collapse on the field. Early word is that Joey Votto was dehydrated as a result of FLS. ... Chien-Ming Wang had a solid rehab start in Triple-A. No word on the time frame for his return. ... Josh Hamilton came back from the DL and immediately went yard. One of his teammates said, "Wonderboy is back!" ... Scott Proctor will have Tommy John surgery. I hope Joe Torre sends flowers. ... Frank Francisco could hit the DL with tendonitis in his pitching shoulder. The saves would likely go to a committee. ... The Pat Burrell neck situation is not unlike that of Derrek Lee's. Sore, chronic, but not usually a long-term issue. ... Chris Carpenter had a solid bullpen session on Tuesday. He could be back as early as next week, especially if the Cards choose to move him to the pen. ... Ian Kennedy had successful surgery to repair an aneurysm in his shoulder. He's done for the season, but should be able to come back without issue in 2010. ... Travis Hafner will head out on a rehab assignment this weekend. No word yet on how long it will be, or where that will take place.

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