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May 22, 2009

Under The Knife

Things Known and Unknown

by Will Carroll

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It's Carb Day! That means nothing to most of you, but in Indiana, it's nearly a holiday. Cheesy bands, crazy drunk kids, and cars screaming by at 225 mph. Yeah, I'll be there with my buddy, doing some radio and mocking Tony Kanaan's hair. At least Jake Peavy quickly turned down the deal to the White Sox, allowing this day to remain relatively "normal" for me. The question now is whether the source telling me that Peavy won't accept a deal anywhere this season is correct. Anyway... powered by Venom, on to the injuries:

Joba Chamberlain (5 DXL)
Usually, this would be the spot where I'd tout some sort of solution for protecting a pitcher from a screaming liner that's coming at him. Problem is, occasionally one hits in precisely the spot where the protection's value would be counteracted by a loss of mobility. That spot is usually the knee, exactly where Chamberlain got pegged. Adam Jones hits the ball very hard, and this one was a rope. What confused me while watching it was how the ball 'died' off of his leg. Chamberlain made a glove save (and a beauty!) off of his knee; initially, I'd thought it had hit above or below the kneecap in a softer, but more painful area. Images showed no fractures, though I'm sure he has a nice bruise. The Yankees don't expect him to miss a start, but they'll be watching him closely, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him pushed back or even skipped.

Jose Reyes (10 DXL)
Reyes finally had an MRI on his leg, and the diagnosis is still confusing. SNY reported that he was diagnosed with tendonitis in the back of his knee, which could mean a few different areas, including the popliteus tendon. This is the tendon that's kept Kevin Garnett out for months, causing Bill Simmons no end of personal angst. Given Garnett's slow and extended recovery, is this the road that Reyes is headed down? The answer, simply put, is no. The injuries might be the same, but the skills they're asked to perform are much different. Maybe Reyes won't jump up to snag a liner, but running isn't one of the things that would aggravate mild tendonitis. Of course, it's not mild now, and the team continues to work to make the swelling go down. It's difficult to know exactly when he'll be back, though the team is not considering the DL for him right now.

Vicente Padilla (15 DXL)
Depth is a wonderful thing, but the Rangers really didn't want to use theirs. Padilla came up sore after his last outing, and his throw day showed that he wasn't going to be able to make it through his Friday start. Instead, they'll push Derek Holland, one of their prized prospects, from the bullpen to his first start. He'll be on a very strict pitch limit given his recent workload, and it wouldn't surprise me to see this play out as more of a bullpen game than a real start. Padilla's shoulder isn't thought to have significant damage, but the Rangers won't take any chances at this stage in the season. He'll be out for at least the minimum, giving Holland a taste of the starting role and opening a roster spot for Frank Francisco's return.

Edinson Volquez (21 DXL)
Joey Votto (10 DXL)

I got in the car yesterday to go get my headlight replaced and the Reds game was on. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com was on with Marty and Thom Brennaman, and during their discussion, Volquez's situation came up. Sheldon pointed out that it was Volquez who told Dusty Baker that he wouldn't be ready to go, never a good sign. Marty immediately pointed out that Volquez should go on the DL and the team should bring up Homer Bailey. Sheldon responded that the team had been avoiding the DL a lot this season, using the example of Votto. Well, it looks as if Marty had an inside source. Before the game was over, Volquez was on the DL and Bailey was on his way up from Louisville to make the Saturday start. Volquez's back is more than just spasm, it's an actual significant strain, one that will keep him out past one start and probably past the minimum. The news was better on Votto, who finally has a diagnosis. It's a relatively simple inner ear infection that will be treated with antibiotics. The team expects him back quickly, but they'll wait until he's asymptomatic.

Jo-Jo Reyes (21 DXL)
Omar Infante (45 DXL)

The Braves can deal with injuries; it seems that for the last two decades the one thing they've always had is depth. When Reyes went down with a hamstring strain, the team had several options to choose from. They went with Kris Medlen, who had a solid debut, but they could as easily have picked Tommy Hansen. They've also got Tom Glavine making some progress toward a comeback with the team. The depth that's allowed them to compete while not starting Hansen's clock also works well to deal with injuries. They can also deal with the loss of Infante, who had inexplicably gotten Bobby Cox's attention during a hot streak and was taking time away from Kelly Johnson, while also filling in all over the diamond. Now, they have Johnson back in the lineup and all they lose with Infante is a good backup at several positions. Assuming they stay relatively healthy-always a worry with guys like Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson-the six weeks Infante will miss shouldn't hurt the team too much.

John Smoltz (75 DXL)
Is Smoltz back? Well, kind of; he made his first rehab start for Single-A Greenville and did rather well. He made it through three innings before bumping against his pitch limit. He had good command, walking none, and decent movement on his pitches according to observers. The velocity is a bit of a concern; while he touched the low 90s, he was mostly around 88 mph. The velocity should be enough and should increase as he builds both stamina and confidence. In fact, Smoltz said that he was throwing at "85 percent." At the very least, assuming no setbacks we know that Smoltz has to be back when the rehab clock runs out on June 19. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him in Boston if he has two more good starts. His next one will be on Tuesday, though the location remains unknown.

Edwin Jackson (0 DXL)
A couple of days ago I talked about this being the time of year when we hear the high pitch count stories from college and prep playoffs. Detroit has nothing to do with those, and Jim Leyland knows better. The idea that 130 would be considered insanely high wasn't the case only a decade ago, and we'll assume that Leyland took a risk, knowing that he was trying to save the bullpen, and will find a way to buy Jackson some extra rest. The big workload isn't so much bad on the face of it as it is bad if there are no adjustments made. Jackson's command and control issues will always work against his efficiency, but he is still young, so we'll see how he and the team adjust over the next few starts.

Aramis Ramirez (60 DXL)
Yesterday I asked for a suggestion of an acronym for that part of the rehab when there's really no news to report. My favorite suggestion was "TRIP," for "Textbook Rehab In Progress." That's pretty much where Ramirez is now, doing range-of-motion exercises with his damaged shoulder. He talked to reporters for the first time and gave some indication of where he is. The shoulder is still painful, but there was no mention of surgery. Ramirez says that he won't have a firm idea of where he is until he gets back to baseball activities, which he thought would be by mid-June. While there's no real timeline for his return, the lack of surgical possibilities is interesting. Was there less damage than expected inside the shoulder, or are they just putting it off until the offseason? This one will bear watching throughout the rehab to see if they put any extra emphasis on strengthening and stabilizing the joint.

Quick Cuts: Chipper Jones is dealing with a bunion problem. It's always difficult to tell how much, if any, time he'll miss with any injury. ... Carlos Guillen still can't swing a bat, meaning that he's out at least another week. ... Two separate front-office types asked me "What changed?" regarding Dontrelle Willis. I have no idea, but with the time frame and talk about anxiety, is it pharmaceutical? ... One thing we seldom think about regarding personnel moves is how it affects rehabs. Bryan Price leaving the Diamondbacks doesn't help Brandon Webb, just due to the handoff to new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., though ATC Ken Crenshaw is still in charge of the process. ... Chien-Ming Wang will have one more rehab start before returning to the Yankees. ... I'm not suggesting anything, but how does Ben Zobrist turn into a power hitter without attracting negative speculation? Is the tide turning in the public battle? ... Brad Lidge is doing better because of some orthotics suggested by ATC Scott Sheridan.

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