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July 10, 2009

Under The Knife

Met-astrophe?

by Will Carroll

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Hanley Ramirez (5 DXL)
The Marlins are either positive that Ramirez's hip is fine, or they just don't understand how the DL works. All evidence points to the former after the team used Ramirez as a pinch-hitter in Thursday's game, wiping out the possibility of a retroactive DL move. Ramirez went through a normal pre-game routine, even taking grounders, but he was once again held out of the lineup, the fifth start he's missed. The hip flexor strain continues to bother him. Sources tell me he's mostly bothered on the first step while his lateral movement "isn't so bad." The team thinks that he'll play this week, but they'll be cautious with him and think that the All-Star break will help him heal up. They fully expect him to be ready once games start up again next week, but with the continued 'minor' leg injuries, I'm curious whether the Marlins truly think this is a simple list of unconnected problems, or if there's some underlying cause that will crop up again sometime, in some similar way.

Fernando Martinez (30 DXL)
J.J. Putz (60 DXL)

Dear Mets fans: Step away from the ledge. Your pal, Will. That said, the news did get worse for the Mets, as they dropped Martinez onto the DL with a strained tendon behind his knee. He joins Jose Reyes there with a similar problem, one that's not unlike the issue that kept Kevin Garnett out of the playoffs for the Celtics. As with Reyes, there's no solid timeline for when he'll be back, since this is one of those issue that's so rare as to be poorly understood. While the injuries aren't identical, their similarity is troubling. One injury is bad luck, two is coincidence, and more than that is pattern. At two, there's a lot to be done on trying to figure out the why, but little is often found from that small a data set. The Mets are likely to take a very hard look at a lot of things this offseason; their conditioning program is going to be near the top of that list. To balance all the bad news, there is at least some good news on Putz, as he's a couple of weeks ahead of schedule after his surgery and could be back about the same time that Billy Wagner is ready. That could make for a solid bullpen, if there's anything left to save by then.

Torii Hunter (15 DXL)
I've determined that my epitaph is likely to be "a strain is a tear!" Once again, the confusion of terminology has come to confuse people. Hunter had an MRI on his adductor, which determined there was a Grade II strain. There, that's your proper description of the injury. More commonly, he has what gets called a "groin strain", which is less serious than a "groin tear." The word people are actually looking for with "tear" in that latter instance is "rupture," meaning that there has been a complete separation of muscle from muscle or tendon from bone. While both a Grade II and Grade III strains indicate tearing in the muscle, only the Grade III indicates rupture. Don't let the terminology fool you, though: Hunter's hurting, and the key fact here is that it's an aggravation of a chronic injury; as Hunter said, he's been "feeling it for about a month." He won't go blind, just to the DL unless there's rapid improvement.

Chipper Jones(7 DXL)
Yunel Escobar (5 DXL)

When Jones sits out, you know it's bad. It's almost a running joke here at UTK, the way he'll push through injuries or essentially write his own name into the lineup when he feels healthy enough to play. That a groin injury has kept him sidelined this week is telling in terms of the severity, but Jones can't get any rotation from either side of the plate, not just off the 'back leg' when hitting right-handed, and that has some worried that this is either a more significant strain or that he's got the type of labrum issue we've suddenly seen this year. Remember that just as every unknown can't be blamed on injury, we can't assume that every lingering groin strain isn't headed for FAIL. With the All-Star break coming up, the Braves are being cautious and perfectly willing to let Jones rest all the way through it. Keeping Jones off of the DL is going to be a bit tougher if Yunel Escobar is also sidelined, however, and Escobar came out of Thursday's game with severe lower back spasms. You have to watch the whole clip, but in the last shot included, Escobar does appear to be limping slightly and leaning, an indication that that big swing might be the source of the strain. That it tightened up so quickly isn't a good sign.

Mike Lowell (20 DXL)
Things are looking up for Lowell. He's doing well with 'baseball activities' after having fluid drained and Synvisc injected into his hip. He's not eligible to come off the DL for another week, so the progress projected forward would be solid. The Red Sox are not only working on getting him back, but keeping him back. Since they're in the dark as much as everyone else about how this injury and recovery from this procedure is supposed to go, the Sox are trying some creative solutions behind the scenes. While the details remain murky, one source told me that rehab guru Mike Reinold is "worth his weight in gold" to the Red Sox, and that his work with Lowell is "going to be worth a lot of ink in journals."

Javier Vazquez (5 DXL)
The Braves might consider hurting all their pitchers if they get the same results that Vazquez has had over the last month. That's because he's been pitching-and pitching well-with a strained lower abdomen. He'll miss his next start as the team uses the break to give him a little extra rest. How did he pitch with the injury? A major league pitching coach tells me that injuries can help: "It makes them think, which is usually bad, but as long as the pain isn't biting them, they'll focus on doing the little things-easy mechanics, not overthrowing, quick innings. It works out or they get hit hard." It's a counterintuitive point and certainly not recommended, but it does make some sense. What doesn't make sense is why those "little things" take an injury to get focused on. Vazquez shouldn't miss more than this start, but the strain is going to be there a while, for good or bad.

Quick Cuts: The Phillies are supposed to activate Raul Ibaņez on Friday, but despite finishing his rehab without problems, they won't commit. ... Aubrey Huff doesn't think his groin strain is serious enough for him to go on the DL, but he could be out through the break. ... The Cubs will re-evaluate Geovany Soto today; expect the oblique strain to hold him out through the break, just to be safe side. ... Ryan Doumit is expected to have a few more rehab games in Triple-A, but should be back with the Pirates soon. There's a rumor that the Freddy Sanchez deal might be opening the roster spot for Doumit. ... Xavier Nady had his Tommy John surgery and should be ready for spring training. ... Corey Dawkins, ATC, does some great work here on the subject of BMI, workloads, and more. ... Orlando Hudson left Thursday's game after a pitch hit him in the knee. He wasn't hobbled after the game, so he shouldn't miss much time, if any. ... Cesar Izturis is back from an appendectomy and should be a cheap source of fantasy steals. ... Brandon Backe has a torn rotator cuff. Expect some fireworks as his agent heads for a fight with the Astros. ... I'm going to have to see more of this system that Alan Schwarz describes in yesterday's New York Times; the key for me is going to be positioning.

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