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May 29, 2009

Under The Knife

The Undiscovered Recovery

by Will Carroll

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Brett Myers (90 DXL)
It's often said that every time you go to a baseball game, you'll see something you've never seen before. That's not supposed to happen in UTK, but it does sometimes. At times, it's cool, like when a new procedure cuts rehab time or makes it possible for a player to come back when he might not have been able to a decade ago. Other times, we're left wondering what might happen without benefit of any comparable situations. Strangely, both are in play for Myers. All indications are that he's headed for the type of hip surgery that's all the rage these days.* A bone spur that's been inside Myers' hip for years-he said he's felt pain for that long, so it's a reasonable assumption-has torn into his labrum, necessitating repair. He's likely to get the "full" surgery, like Chase Utley, and since he's seeing Utley's surgeon, Dr. Brian Kelly, we have that for a comp. That would mean a three- or four-month rehab that would put him in Ben Sheets' position of trying to convince teams that he's healthy enough to sign as a free agent this winter. The problem is that a pitcher is not a player and the forces on the body are different. One pitching coach I spoke with Thursday night wondered if this was a cascade from his shoulder injury, observing he "was a power pitcher, and he's not now. Maybe he's pushing more with his legs or striding longer. He probably doesn't even know it." While it's hard to put a timeline or a precise DXL on this, the best-case scenario has him coming back in late August. At that stage, it would be tough for him to build stamina enough to come back to starting. Could Myers move to the pen? There are a lot of scenarios, and over the next days and months, we'll learn more.

*: Clearly, this surgery needs a shorthand, in the way of Tommy John surgery. Put your suggestion in comments. "Hip-Rod" surgery is just too simple and cheesy.

Jorge Posada (25 DXL)
Melky Cabrera (8 DXL)
Xavier Nady (60 DXL)

It was something of a surprise when a source told me that Posada was going to be activated on Friday. This was early Thursday afternoon, and then quickly Peter Abraham and Mark Feinsand were hearing the same thing. (Truth be told, they probably heard it before me.) Posada's return will help the offense, but it still leaves them with a defensive gap and a question about who will be the backup. Posada tested the hamstring with just six innings in an extended spring training game, but felt good enough that he felt he could handle both catching and running. With the AL East race as tight as you might expect, the Yankees realize that the difference between Posada (.318 EqA) and his replacements (Francisco Cervelli, .218 EqA; Kevin Cash .195 EqA) could be the difference between winning the division or heading home for another uncomfortable October. The news was also good for both Cabrera and Nady. Cabrera's shoulder doesn't appear to have any significant internal damage, meaning that he'll avoid the DL. The team doesn't think he'll be back over the weekend, but they do feel that he won't need too much longer to be game-ready. Nady doesn't have as clear a timeline, but a homer in his first extended spring training appearance has the Yankees hoping that he can come back sooner rather than later. Interestingly, he'll begin a throwing program next week, so the idea that he could only come back as a DH might be temporary.

Kyle Lohse (7 DXL)
The talk went from "miss a start" to "push back a start" very quickly with Lohse, but be careful about how much you let yourself get spun here. While it's possible that Lohse could start on Sunday, it's just a possibility. Lohse will throw a side session today, keeping him more or less "on track" with his throwing schedule, putting Sunday as what would have been his throw day. If he gets through today's session without the same burning pain in his forearm, he'll start. That said, there's no indication that the problem has gone away. While it's certain that he won't start tonight, it's far from certain that he'll start on Sunday either. With either scenario, testing his stamina and the risk of exacerbating a mysterious condition remains the strongest possibility. If Lohse doesn't do well in his session, there's a chance the team will DL him and bring up a starter for Sunday, given the Cardinals' upcoming schedule.

Anthony Reyes (120 DXL)
I often group players from the same team together, since it adds context to the team's situation. When I started taking notes and building out today's column, I grouped Anthony Reyes in with the Cardinals. He's not there any more, of course, but remembering that does add some context. Reyes' time with the Cardinals and the constant tweaks to his mechanics left him a mess for much of his time there, aside from that one solid playoff start. The Indians got him thinking they could stop the madness and just let him pitch. One or the other, or both, or maybe just dumb luck, intervened, leaving him with an ulnar nerve problem. The ulnar nerve is what most people call the "funny bone," and what Reyes is feeling is similar to being struck on the funny bone with every pitch he makes. He'll have the nerve moved (transposed) inside the elbow, a surgery that is simple, but will end his season. The Indians will have to wait until next year to see if they can rebuild him, but I have a feeling the rehab process will be a good one for Reyes.

Ryan Doumit (50 DXL)
Doumit seems to be healing well; his scaphoid fracture was seen as healing cleanly and properly on a CT, a very good sign for an injury that is notoriously slow to heal. It's going so well that he has been cleared for all baseball activity and will immediately begin working towards a return. The hitting is of course the big issue, and we can expect Doumit to show some loss of bat control and power. (Side note: I've recently learned from a major league hitting coach that those two issues are interconnected in a way that may make separating them impossible. "Power" is a result of putting the bat on the ball in a certain way and holding that position. Losing bat control makes it less possible to hit a ball with power. I'm not sure how to deal with that semantically.) Doumit could be back as early as mid-June, depending on how his wrist responds. Then the question becomes whether or not Doumit has a starting job to come back to, because both Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz have been hitting well in his absence.

Tom Glavine (60 DXL)
Glavine wants to pitch for the Braves, which surprises no one. He's in as much of a rush now as he was at the start of his career, knowing that his shoulder is only going to hold up for so long. Given his good results the last couple of times out, he thinks that he's ready and doesn't want to wait. He also got a chance to see Tommy Hanson pitch Thursday night, with Hanson going six one-hit innings, so Glavine knows that if he doesn't succeed, everyone thinks that the next great Braves pitcher is right behind him. Glavine didn't have pinpoint control, only cracked 86 once, but he thinks he's ready. The Braves want to see one more rehab start in Triple-A, but a decision will be made today on where his next start will be. He's one setback or a couple of bad outings from retirement.

Matt Wieters (0 DXL)
Today's the day and I figured that I should at least address Wieters. Wieters may be the rebirth of the Orioles or PECOTA's Waterloo, but we do know that he's going to be the ultimate test of the tall catcher problem. Along with Joe Mauer, whose leg problems can in some ways be attributed to his height, Wieters is one of very few catchers over 6'3". Keith Law was the first to mention this that I can remember, though I'm sure it had been addressed elsewhere. His ideas on it (he was against at the time, though I'm not sure if he still is) got me to ask some of my father's students to test it. They did some calculations and physical tests and, yes, there is more stress on the knees and hips during all phases of the crouch. Testing the muscles' response was more difficult, but the additional stresses didn't seem to speak well there. I've long been for moving Mauer from behind the plate, and if Wieters is as good, I'll be an advocate of moving him as well. Not completely, but both play in the AL and that DH slot should be used for more than just hiding a glove. Now, let's all hope that this is the last time that I have to put Wieters' name in UTK.

Quick Cuts: Conor Jackson did some hitting off a tee on Wednesday, but was exhausted on Thursday. That's Valley Fever for you, and it doesn't look like his comeback will be a quick one. ... Could Alex Gordon be back as soon as July 1? The answer seems to be yes, but he'll be examined in Vail to lock that down. ... Rich Harden played catch, giving the Cubs the idea that he could be back in the rotation in two weeks. Watch for his progress, but it sounds as if he might not do a rehab start. ... Oh this is just classic. ... I mostly agree with these sentiments, but the problem is the development, not the pitch count in isolation; a count can't exist in isolation and have meaning. ... Someone tell me which scouts found Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso. ... Yunel Escobar's hip kept him out of the lineup, but the Braves think he'll play this weekend. ... Tim Hudson threw a light bullpen session, and continues to look as if he'll pitch this season.

Related Content:  Will Myers,  Back

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