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June 15, 2009

Under The Knife

Big Names Down

by Will Carroll

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Jake Peavy (90 DXL)
For all intents and purposes, Peavy is done for the season. Yes, that statement is a little provocative, but in analyzing his ankle injury, I'm led to that conclusion via several routes. First, the injury itself is very significant, a Grade II tear of his posterior tibialis tendon that was severe enough to require a cast. When I first heard this, I expected it to be an old term that we still use for something else, like saying "I'm taping the game" when I'm actually using TiVo. No, this wasn't an aircast or a walking boot; this was the old-style hard cast, designed to keep Peavy from putting any weight at all on the ankle, and forcing him to rest. He'll have that cast on for the better part of a month, which takes us past the All-Star break. At that point, he'll then be out of the cast, but hardly out of the woods. The posterior tibialis is, like most tendons, slow-healing, and when walking, the tendon is taxed on each and every step. At best, he'd miss another month, and that's not including the time necessary to get his arm back in order. This best-case scenario has the Padres' ace back by mid-August. Even a slight setback or push from the best-case scenario puts him dangerously close to September; at that stage the Padres will have to decide if getting him back is worth it, or if allowing him to rest more to be fully healed by spring training is the wiser course. As usual with situations like this, the standings will have a lot to do with it. If the Padres were a couple of games out, Peavy-even at less than 100 percent-could make a difference of a game or two. (I don't mean this in a VORP/WARP context, but rather in much the same way that pushing CC Sabathia out on short rest worked for the Brewers last season.) I'm not laying bets on the Pads being in this position, so the smart play would be to shut him down or to just have make a cameo "OK, the ankle's fine" appearance. In other words, while he may play, the chance of him accumulating significant innings or fantasy stats is very low, and moreover, the risk/reward for the Padres is way out of balance.

Roy Halladay (10 DXL)
The Jays-wait, is this like the Rays, or are they still Blue Jays? Will I get fined a dollar?-will do everything they can to avoid placing Halladay on the DL. With their offense having gone AWOL, and beset by other injuries, losing Halladay would be the death knell for a team that had no business being considered a contender. He left his last start with a "painful groin," an odd phrasing that didn't really give much information. He was able to do some side work, but was clearly going at a pace light enough not to push the problem. He'll definitely miss his Wednesday start, but the Jays' schedule offers them a chance to hold him out until this weekend against the Nats. Look for Halladay to throw a few more times, but if he's not able to get on the mound by Wednesday, they may have to use a retroactive move to have the full complement of pitchers that Cito Gaston prefers. It's hard to place the blame for a simple groin strain, but with their plethora of pitching injuries, it's also hard to imagine that the team doesn't have a better handle on why they can't stay healthy.

Jeremy Bonderman (60 DXL)
The Tigers have lost Bonderman until at least September. Like Peavy, Bonderman's return will be based on the standings, but possibly in reverse. If the Tigers are in contention, they'll have to balance out whether they can take the risk of using Bonderman in a comeback versus whether he's better than their worst available option at that point. Since the rosters will be expanded, it's easier to take a gamble, and as of now, the Tigers' rotation isn't settled; beyond Dontrelle Willis' struggles, Rick Porcello's workload has to be managed in his rookie season. With Bonderman's shoulder failing him despite an extended rehab, he's essentially lost a second season. I asked data kingpin Bil Burke how many rotation regulars from the last twenty years have come back from almost two years between starts in the majors. The list isn't pretty:


Pitcher             Year  GS   Yr-1 GS   Yr-2 GS   Yr-3 GS
Jeff D'Amico        2000  23   1999  0   1998  0   1997 23 
Steve Cooke         1997  32   1996  0   1995  0   1994 23 
Joe Magrane         1993  28   1992  5   1991  0   1990 31 
John Dopson         1992  25   1991  0   1990  4   1989 28 
Jose Mercedes       2000  20   1999  0   1998  5   1997 23 
Fernando Valenzuela 1993  31   1992  0   1991  2   1990 33 
Pete Vuckovich      1985  22   1984  0   1983  3   1982 30 
Jose Guzman         1991  25   1990  0   1989  0   1988 30 
Gary Nolan          1975  32   1974  0   1973  2   1972 25 
Bill Gullickson     1990  32   1989  0   1988  0   1987 35

From that list, Gullickson spent '88 and '89 in Japan. If Bonderman can restart his career, he'll be bucking history. It's possible, given the advances in sports medicine, but if not, we have to worry. He's an example of a young pitcher who was managed, never overworked, and was given a normal starter's workload at a young age, but still didn't stay healthy. Without plugging too much, Tommy John has a great point in my interview with him. He says that because they didn't have radar guns while he was playing, they focused on getting hitters out rather than throwing hard. Maybe when we look back at this era of pitching and pitching injuries, we'll call it the Radar Era, the way we note the Steroid Era.

Jason Isringhausen (100 DXL)
Isringhausen made one final pitch, sailing it high and outside. It didn't take a medhead to tell you he had an elbow problem, or that, as Mike Siano put it, "that might be the final bullet fired by Generation K." Isringhausen's longstanding arm problems and quick issue after a long rehab from surgery last year don't hold out much hope, though sources tell me that he wasn't in any significant pain after the game. As with Troy Percival, how long the rehab could be may determine whether or not he just hangs it up. One interesting note is that the high-and-wild pitch often indicates an elbow problem. As the elbow 'gives,' especially in the tear/rupture of the UCL, the forward rotational force of the arm will lose the tension of the UCL and snap back slightly, causing the wrist to end up a little more skyward than intended. When a shoulder gives, the opposite happens, pushing the ball down since the rotator cuff is a muscle designed to decelerate the arm. If it can't do its job, the arm will rotate through faster, and will usually cause a pitch to go dirtward. While there's still some measure of hope and we wish Izzy the best, I'm setting the DXL at 100, indicating a season-ender.

Gary Sheffield (5 DXL)
I'll leave it to the analysts to explain the rest of what's wrong with the Mets right now, but Sheffield has been something of a godsend. Crushed at the signing, he has been back to his New York form despite his advancing age. The knee problem that he presented with this weekend came out of nowhere, with the team being as surprised as anyone. Sheffield requested an MRI, which was an unusual move, but it's not unheard of, and certainly within his rights. The worry is that if the problem is this bad and so painful that he can't play the field, why is this the first the team is hearing of it? There's some suggestion that Jerry Manuel knew about the issue, though that's impossible to confirm. Sheffield is hitting enough that the Mets could consider dealing him to an AL club, assuming the injury isn't too severe. We'll know more once the Mets have a better handle on his condition. In the meantime, interleague play will help Sheffield as the Mets head to AL parks for the next week.

Roy Oswalt (2 DXL)
Geoff Blum (15 DXL)
Chris Sampson (15 DXL)
Jose Valverde (30 DXL)

The Astros are a mess in a number of ways, but they're absolutely a mess when it comes to injuries right now. There's a new ATC in charge, and that's one possible reason, but then you look around at the how and why of the injury situation, and I'd be willing to bet that this isn't the main issue. Oswalt is coming off of a wrist injury that forced him to be pushed back, but he certainly wasn't babied in his return. That's not to say that 119 pitches is excessive, especially for someone with Oswalt's history in terms of workload, but it was a little surprising given the wrist injury. The Astros also get back Valverde after he missed a month with a calf injury. He shouldn't have much trouble, which is good, since Sampson is headed to the DL with shoulder fatigue; the latter has been overworked with Valverde, Geoff Geary, and Doug Brocail out of action. Finally, Blum is likely headed to the DL due to a recurrent strained hamstring. This is the same injury that cost him a week late in May, and he keeps aggravating the injury by playing. The time off should heal him up, but then again, the Astros could have done the same thing when the problem first arose, when it was clearly just as bad as it is now. The decisions being made regarding the Astros health are reactive and unplanned, as if Ed Wade and his team never expected any injuries. And after all this, I haven't even mentioned Carlos Lee, who will rest his legs by DHing next week. This is bad.

Eric Chavez (110 DXL)
A few years back, we had Chavez on BP Radio. I forget what he was promoting, but we jumped at the chance to get a top player on the show. Worse, I said on air that he was my pick for AL MVP. I doubt that my words jinxed him, but since then he hasn't been close to MVP form, and he may have reached the end of his career at just 31 years old. He'll have back surgery next week, ending his season and perhaps closing the books. He's said that another back surgery would leave him too unstable to play, and he certainly should be set financially. Chavez's rapid descent has to remind us how difficult it is to predict career paths; this is one time I'd love to see an archive of PECOTA cards.

Quick Cuts: Frank Francisco heads back to the DL as the Rangers continue to search for why he's losing strength in his pitching shoulder. ... Scot Shields will have knee surgery to help correct patellar tendonitis. He's done for the year. ... Brian Bruney is expected to be activated on Tuesday. ... I watched Baseball Tonight for the second time this season and realize now that Pitch-f/x works very well for them. ... The Nats seem resigned to not getting Jesus Flores back this season after running tests on his shoulder. The stress fracture is similar to the one that pitchers suffer. ... Aaron Laffey will throw a simulated game on Monday. If that goes well, he'll head out for a rehab assignment of one or two games. ... After sending Manny Parra down, the Brewers will use a four-man rotation for the next few weeks. It's more a scheduling thing than any kind of bold move. ... Coco Crisp heads to the DL with a sore shoulder and a hate for seagulls. ... Hanley Ramirez is not happy?. ... Phillies prospect Jason Donald often comes up in trade talks. He's having his knee cleaned out after a small meniscus tear, forcing him out for about a month, but there should be few if any long term consequences. ... I hadn't seen this video of Eri Yoshida, the young woman who's a knuckleballer in Japan, before. She has an odd motion, but little movement on the ball. ... One FOT on Johnny Damon's eye: "Fluttering eye? What the [heck] is that? He going on the DL with the vapors?" ... Great stuff here on pitching coach Dave Duncan. I think the point about his early Cleveland work helps to separate him from Tony La Russa. In Leo Mazzone's case, how much was him, and how much was Bobby Cox? I think that's one reason why we don't have a coach in the Hall, but as with Frank Jobe and Jim Andrews, we should.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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