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July 20, 2009

Under The Knife

Taking Hits

by Will Carroll

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Edgar Gonzalez (20 DXL)
There's no scarier injury than a beaning. Jason Hammel's pitch was clearly unintentional, but Gonzalez got one of the worst ones we've seen this year. The batting helmet saved his life, but even with the helmet, he's still feeling the effects of taking a pitch off of the head, and remains hospitalized with post-concussive symptoms. The medical staff not only got there quickly, but made all the right moves, then was backed by the team who took no chances and immediately placed Gonzalez on the DL. It's easy to do with a replaceable player like Gonzalez without the pressure of a division race, but let's give the Padres their due here. This is exactly the kind of concussion management that more teams (and leagues) should adopt. The NATA's position papers on the issue could easily be adopted and the issue fixed industry-wide, but that's unlikely, even though it's an area where baseball could grab the high ground from the NFL. It's sad to say that the league with the best concussion management system is the UFC. Gonzalez will be fine in the long term, but they'll take it slow.

Ramon Hernandez (70 DXL)
The timing here is telling. Hernandez has a known history with knee problems and had been playing through pain. After cycling through the normal therapies, drains, and such, Hernandez is now headed for surgery that is likely to end his season. What's left in question is the specifics. Just as we still don't know what bone is broken in Jay Bruce's wrist, the Reds haven't given any clear indication of what type of surgery he'll have. The four- to six-week absence they're publicly forecasting indicates a simple 'scope, but the chronic nature of Hernandez's condition, the timing in-season, and Hernandez's impending free agency all give this a bit more importance. If it's nothing more than a clean-out, Hernandez could come back, though the Reds' playoff status at that point may have more to do with that than his health.

Nelson Cruz (1 DXL)
A broken right ring finger sounds worse than it is. As any wrestler knows, the ring finger is the weakest when it comes to grip strength, so Cruz is fine as long as the pain doesn't affect his swing. There's many ways to handle that, from padding to painkillers, so the power hitter just needs to make some short-term adjustments that don't have long-term consequences. Of course, Ron Washington will work to give Cruz more time off to help with healing, and he certainly has the bench to make that happen. Look for a slight dip in both opportunities and power numbers for Cruz over the next couple of weeks.

Orlando Hudson (3 DXL)
Maybe Hudson should have just put a shoulder to Russ Ortiz, rather than trying to keep the opposing pitcher safe. By putting his hand out, as Vin Scully so accurately points out in this highlight, Hudson caused some sort of reaction in his surgically repaired wrist. The team was quick to pull him from the game, and then to subsequently point out that he's had "twinges" in the wrist before. He'll head in for tests, but remember that Hudson's contract is heavily incentivized. He's made about half of the possible $4.6 million in incentives at this stage, and is on pace to pick up most if not all of them. Missing time would hurt, but expect the Dodgers to be cautious given their lead and how much difference Hudson has made to the team this season.

Joel Zumaya (70 DXL)
Early word is that Zumaya's "slight pop" was an "aggravation of his previous stress fracture." There's a possibility that he'll need surgery to fixate the bone, something that would end his season, but there hasn't been a final determination yet. We can make a reasonable determination that Zumaya simply can't stay healthy while throwing this hard. My question now is, could he, if he dialed back? Does Zumaya have enough besides the fastball to go out there and throw at 90 percent and do something useful? A doctor I spoke with about this type of stress fracture brought up the possibility that Zumaya's best hope for health might be counterintuitive-a shift back to the rotation.

Scott Kazmir (0 DXL)
Gatorade, Powerade, water... heck, I'm sure some players try the old trick of pickle juice. (Which is a bad idea, by the way.) There's a lot of time and effort put into keeping players hydrated, but I guess Kazmir had a "G moment" when his arm cramped up and he had to come out of the game. It's nothing more and nothing less, but it's still one of those situations that's tough to imagine happening. Yes, it's hot in Kansas City, and yes, Kazmir was working hard on the mound, but it's not that hard to stay hydrated, and it's something that the medical staffs of every team harp on. One ATC I spoke with on this said that it was tough to encourage starters to stay hydrated because "they're focused and you don't usually want to talk to them." I guess talking to them when they're called out to the mound is the baseball way. It shouldn't be. Kazmir will make his next start, and hopefully we'll see him in the dugout with a cup in his hand.

Joe Crede (5 DXL)
The Twins appear to be hedging their bets in a number of ways. With Crede's shoulder hurting (plus his history of back problems) while Alexi Casilla has failed to establish himself, the Twins went out and signed Mark Grudzielanek to add a body to their infield mix. In much the same way as the Angel Berroa signing "worked" for the Mets, this is a case of signing a known quantity for a position where there wasn't an available major league-ready contributor in the system. It's not clear if this says much (if anything) about Crede's shoulder, and certainly it isn't a desperation move made to cover for him at third. Crede's strained AC joint should heal up quickly, though he's always been a bit slower than expected with recovery.

Justin Duchscherer (120 DXL)
The A's are expecting Duchscherer back soon, but given the setbacks he's had along the way, it's no surprise he's still got several tests ahead of him. Duchscherer will throw a simulated game before heading out for an expected rehab start this weekend. There's been some speculation that the A's will shift to a six-man rotation if and when Duchscherer returns, more as a way to fit everyone in while also controlling the innings workloads of some of their young starters. With four of their five current starters aged 23 or younger (and Dallas Braden is no Jamie Moyer at 25,) it's a smart move. As is, counting minor league innings, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are on pace to end the season in Verducci effect territory.

Pedro Martinez (30 DXL)
Trying to figure out what Pedro will do is a fascinating parlor game right now. With the Phillies expecting to use him as a starter, and with his showing good stuff in his bullpen sessions, the question seems to be more about how Martinez will hold up instead of how he will perform. Martinez might be able to hold up over a short period of time, like a couple months, but remember that last season his shoulder would not recover well between starts. Martinez wasn't tested during the WBC, and there's simply no way to replicate the normal workload of a starter to tell how well he will recover this season. Projections of statistics are one thing, but Martinez is a cheap gamble for the Phillies. If they get something, they get something. They're smart enough not to be counting on something.

Quick Cuts: Daisuke Matsuzaka will be checked by team doctors, then head right back to Ft. Myers. Things are moving slowly, as the team has no rush given its pitching depth. ... Fernando Nieve strained his quad trying to leg out a hit. There's your hustle to first base for you. He heads to the DL as the Mets scramble to find a replacement. ... Tim Hudson had a successful first rehab outing at Single-A, showing good command and velocity. ... Jake Westbrook is close behind, after missing some time in his rehab. He could start a rehab assignment next week. ... Jake Peavy is pushing to get moving on his rehab, but the Padres aren't in any rush. ... For those worried about Carlos Beltran's knees, it's important to note that cartilage damage isn't something you really have to worry about, since he barely has any in there.

Related Content:  Broken Wrist,  Quad-a

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