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July 21, 2009

Under The Knife

Toeing the Line

by Will Carroll

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Jason Schmidt (0 DXL)
I'll be honest-I didn't even notice that Schmidt was going to pitch last night until I was checking out the new features of MLB At Bat* and saw "Dodgers-Schmidt." I guess I should have been reading Dodger Thoughts more closely, but yes, Jason Schmidt is back in the rotation. (Victor Rojas points out that Schmidt is the eighth-highest-paid pitcher in the game.) Schmidt pitched... passably well. His fastball is below average, coming in at 87, so his command and control are key. He mostly pitched around people, willing to give up a walk rather than a big hit. Schmidt doesn't look like he's going to help the team much, but he might help them from hurting themselves. If he can eat some innings, that's some that won't fall on Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw. It won't earn what he'll be paid, but it's important.

*: The iPhone application just keeps getting better. Now all games are available for MLB.tv subscribers on the iPhone, though the standard stupid blackout restrictions apply.

Jonathan Broxton (0 DXL)
Broxton continues to struggle with a toe problem. Some are trying to make this into something about his weight, but toe injuries are just flat-out painful and tend to linger. It's more pronounced in football, where the running and cutting taxes the toe more, and because the positions players are asked to put themselves in actually can cause turf toe and other toe issues. The All-Star closer has been shaky since the toe injury cropped up, but Joe Torre keeps sending him out there, and he gets it done. He's turned into more a of Mitch Williams type for now, indicating that the toe is causing some change in his mechanics that's altering his control. Stan Conte wouldn't let Broxton out there if he could do more damage, but I'm concerned about whether the mechanics and the toe are something of a chicken/egg issue. We'll have to continue to watch this closely and I'm still relatively sure that as the Dodgers start thinking about October, they'll find a way to get Broxton some rest. I think the issues that have arisen in front of him in the pen might be why they're delaying and keeping him out there so often.

Brett Myers (75 DXL)
We've heard about Alex Rodriguez, Alex Gordon, and even Carlos Delgado being "ahead of schedule" at some point in their hip rehabs, but Myers might be ahead of all of their timelines. Myers is so far ahead that he'll throw a bullpen session this weekend, stunning even his doctors. Myers was initially given little chance of returning at all this season, but now there's a chance he could end up a key part of their playoff run with a late-August return. There's still several steps to go and we've seen with others that there can be setbacks, but with as little as we know about this operation, we know less about how it will affect a pitcher. Myers is doing very well, but anything can happen here. The speculation is that Myers will go into the bullpen, but I don't understand why he'd need to. There's plenty of time to build his arm strength back, so this may say more about their belief in Pedro Martinez or their lack of belief in Brad Lidge.

Edinson Volquez (60 DXL)
The Reds are on a strange perch between their present and future, and between winning and losing. Paul Daugherty pointed out recently that if the NL Central winner is just an 88-win team (which is in line with what the Playoff Odds Report has to say on the subject), then the Reds would need to go 44-26 the rest of the way to hit that mark. That's not something this team seems likely to do as constructed, especially when it's missing Jay Bruce and Ramon Hernandez. Dusty Baker has been pointing to the pitching to carry the team instead. Volquez made it through the first of three bullpen sessions scheduled for this week (scheduled for Monday-Wednesday-Friday) without much issue. He's not throwing at 100 percent, but he was throwing pretty well while showing no problems with his elbow. Assuming that he makes it through the sessions, the Reds have another piece of info as they decide whether to be buyers or sellers.

Carlos Quentin (0 DXL)
The first game back looks to be a blueprint for Quentin: he went 1-for-4, and was then lifted for a defensive replacement. That pattern will save him some wear, but cost him some at-bats as well, but that's a fair tradeoff. The cameras didn't focus on him much, but what little I could see looked okay. He wasn't visibly limping or showing a noticeable change in gait. This great MLB.com video gives a ton of information as well; he's describing the issue now as "soreness," he credits the training staff for their plan, and he thinks he can play in a series of games rather than needing regular rest. We'll see how Ozzie Guillen and Herm Schneider manage this, but I'm gaining confidence and think my picking the White Sox to win the division is suddenly looking a lot better.

Ryan Dempster (15 DXL)
Dempster made his first bullpen appearance since breaking his big toe, and we'll assume he didn't jump over the dugout fence to get out there. Dempster threw at about 75 percent on 60 pitches, and had no problem with the toe or with his arm. He'll have one more bullpen session, then a simulated game before getting back into the Cubs' rotation next week. Unlike the problem of Broxton, Dempster's toe was a pretty clean, straightforward fracture. Those heal in a predictable fashion, and it looks like Dempster will be back for the Cubs at the minimum.

Frank Francisco (15 DXL)
It's not his arm this time; instead, Francisco has pneumonia, and I'm not even going to try and pretend that's good. It's treatable, to be sure, but he will be weakened for a period of time. It may allow him to rest, and perhaps prevent more of the arm problems that have pushed him to the DL twice already this year. It's reportedly a mild case, and with a retroactive move Francisco could be back as early as next week. The key here will be whether he can get back up to full strength quickly, and how well C.J. Wilson can lock down the ninth inning in the meantime.

Chien-Ming Wang (90 DXL)
The Yanks are very worried after just a throw session had Wang hurting again. Between the foot, the hips, and now the shoulder, Wang has undergone a full-system breakdown in just a year. That's very unusual, and points strongly to some sort of mechanical issue. With all the money the Yankees spend on things, you'd figure they'd be at the front of everything, including biomechanics, but they're not. They used to have a real edge in how they managed rehabilitation, especially with Tommy John recoveries, but while they're still very good, the rest of the league has caught up. Wang might serve as a symbol for this change in fortune, because it would take a fraction of his salary to build a better medical staff. Not that the current staff is bad; I'm talking additions. Wang seems to be done for the season, with the question being whether this is a permanent or temporary stop.

Quick Cuts: Scott Olsen has labrum damage, and the Nats are consulting with Jim Andrews to determine the next step. ... Don't expect Geovany Soto back until the middle of August, due to his strained oblique. ... Jonathan Papelbon has flu-like symptoms, and his availability is in question for the next few days. ... Damaso Marte has started a rehab assignment and should be back in the Bronx very soon. ... Jason Giambi will miss a couple weeks after a quad strain. ... Kevin Slowey will start a rehab assignment this weekend. ... Tickets are on sale for the Memphis Event at www.hitonememphis.com ... Because you should always take the chance to say it when you can: I love you guys. Thanks for letting me write for you and for reading, but most of all, thank you for caring.

Related Content:  Will Myers,  Quad-a

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