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August 7, 2009

Under The Knife

Out Outfielders

by Will Carroll

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Jose Reyes (10/4)
The news from the MRIs is that Reyes has "severe scarring" in his hamstrings. Is that good news or bad? It's neither really, just another fact to note along the way in what has been a tale of woe. The fact has always been that surgery has not only been the last option but also a bad one for a player like Reyes, so being able to avoid it even a bit longer is good. The problem is that the therapy may not be able to break up all the scarring, and that we won't know for a couple of weeks or even months how well it has worked. If they can get Reyes past this, he'll be "good as new," or rather, good as '03. This is very similar to the issues Reyes had at the start of his career, the ones that made it seem like he might not have a career. It's really hard to tell where this will go in the near future or what signposts we'll see. The biggest issue for me is that Reyes went off the tracks somewhere along the way, and no one really seems to know where or why. The program that Vern Gambetta used to get Reyes to where he was seems to have been left behind and no one really seems to know when or why. There are too many unknowns to feel good about this right now.

Jonathon Niese (10/4)
Gary Sheffield (8/10)

Reyes is hardly the only injured Met and it seems that list grows every day. Niese tore his hamstring on a play covering first base; he simply stretched too far, and the muscle gave way. I'm told that it was a near-complete rupture, and that it had to be surgically re-attached. It's a painful injury and an involved surgery, but one that usually has a good success rate. Even so, there aren't too many of these in baseball and fewer still for pitchers, so the comparables aren't ideal. He's certainly done for the year, but is expected to be ready for spring training. The Mets are also dealing with Gary Sheffield's chronic hamstring strain, which acted up just after he came off of the DL. He was running to first on Wednesday when he pulled up as if he'd reinjured it. He left the game immediately and was not in Thursday's lineup. Jerry Manuel joked later that Sheffield was "85 years old, he's going to pull some hamstrings," but the team continues to call it cramping, which is just odd, but indicates they think he'll avoid the DL.

Justin Upton (8/25)
Forty-three days is the number that everyone in Arizona is looking at. It's how many days Upton missed last time he had a strained oblique, and it's an easy number to get caught up in. Don't let yourself get caught up in it, though. No injury is exactly like another, even when it happens to the same player. Chronic or recurrent injuries tend to get worse, though in some cases the familiarity with what worked and what was involved in the last rehab helps shorten them. Upton strained his right oblique this time, as opposed to the left last time. They're equal and opposite, but have different predominant functions for a right-handed batter and thrower. If you add in complications like the D'backs being out of the chase, Eric Byrnes coming back, and Gerardo Parra needing some playing time, it's hard to say exactly when Upton will come back. The Snakes are optimistic, but my best guess is 21 days at this stage, give or take a few, but I'll go on record that it won't be 43.

Andrew McCutchen
Although McCutchen got slapped in the face with a tag, with his having headaches two days later, we have to wonder if McCutchen didn't take more of a punch than a slap. Naturally, the worry here is that McCutchen suffered a concussion in the unintentional collision of face and hand, so the Pirates have pulled him to monitor him closely. The good news is that he's mostly reacted like someone who got sucker-punched-it hurts. The Pirates continue to watch McCutchen and will be conservative with him, but allowed him back in the lineup once he was symptom-free. There shouldn't be much follow-on here.

Torii Hunter (8/14)
Hunter was held back from a pending rehab assignment when his strained oblique failed a strength test. Honestly, I have no idea how you test an oblique. It's not in my textbooks that I keep around, and the two people who might know that I was able to get hold of this morning didn't know. "I just check for comfort and function," said one ATC. "A lot of it is trust." The Angels might just be playing it safe with Hunter and a few games lead in the AL West. With the way they've been hitting and playing lately, it's not like they need to rush anyone back into the lineup. There's no new timetable for Hunter, though this delay isn't expected to be a long one.

Jed Lowrie (TBD)
For a player coming back from a wrist injury, the last thing a team wants to hear is that there's numbness in the hand. Lowrie is experiencing problems at bat that have been lingering, including pain in the forearm and numbness in the hand. These are the classic symptoms of some kind of nerve problem, one that indicates that there's an issue with inflammation inside the arm. The symptoms are transient rather than consistent, and only affect Lowrie at bat, but there's no guarantee this isn't the start of something worse. It sounds from reports as if Lowrie is headed for tests to try and determine the exact cause. Lowrie could still end up on the DL, or back in the game Friday, so I'll hold off with any guess on his expected return date.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8/9)
A dead arm for a catcher? It sounds strange, but that was the initial diagnosis for Saltalamacchia. If you follow the Newberg Report-and if you're a Rangers fan, you'd better be-then you'll know this didn't just happen. Salty has been dealing with bad throws for a while, but it came to a head when a throw back to Tommy Hunter went errant, costing the club a run. The team will go with Taylor Teagarden in the short term, but with a key series coming up with the Angels, the Rangers may be juggling the roster to get another catcher up and ready. Teagarden's offense has been underwhelming and there's not as much room for error in the Rangers' offense recently. There's not much to go on in either the short or long term for Salty, but no one's mentioning Mackey Sasser, which is good.

Bobby Jenks (8/7)
As expected, Jenks underwent lithotripsy, although Sox trainer Herm Schneider was a bit more down to earth in his description, explaining that Jenks had the kidney stones "blasted out of there." The procedure, used on Albert Pujols' feet a few years back, has been described as being punched really hard, over and over. The soreness afterwards is understandable and nothing compared to the pain of passing a stone. Jenks is expected to be ready to throw sometime this weekend, though he'll be eased back in and may miss a couple save opportunities over the next few days. There's not expected to be any longer-term consequences, though I recommend mixing in some cranberry juice.

B.J. Ryan (10/4)
Ryan asked for his release from the Cubs after he didn't get any velocity back. The question many have is whether this is the end of the line for him. Given the way he came up and the career-long questions about his mechanics, the better question might be whether or not Ryan was allowed the maximum possible career. He certainly made enough money to be comfortable for the rest of his life, but unlike many pitchers he was pushed up quickly then used hard, as teams tried to extract the maximum value before the expected implosion. Ryan did eventually break, needing Tommy John surgery which quickly led to shoulder problems when the mechanics weren't fixed, but the quick path to the majors and the de-emphasis on clean mechanics, allowing him to do what he did well as long as he could do it might be smarter than what gets tried with many young pitchers. We talked last weekend about Blake Beavan and his mechanical issues, but the changes to save his arm have also taken mph off his fastball. It might be strange to hear me say this, but sometimes I think we do too much in the way of tinkering, and that Ryan's career might end up a positive example.

Quick Cuts: Yes, Johan Santana's fastball was a bit off last time out. No, it's happened before. ... Scott Rolen is back in the lineup for the Reds after suffering from PCS. ... Gil Meche makes another start for Omaha, and will have an 80-pitch limit. They're watching for control as well as more stamina. ... Geovany Soto is expected back today after missing time with an oblique strain. ... David Aardsma is, um, well, he's out a couple days. ... Roy Oswalt will throw in the pen on Friday; if it goes well, he'll get a start early next week. ... Michael Bourn is dealing with a mild groin strain, but it does hurt his one real skill. ... If you think baseball has it bad, you should see what the Australians deal with. ... Erik Bedard will have another MRI, as his pitching shoulder remains sore. He could be done for the season and heading for more surgery. ... Jordan Zimmermann looked solid in his rehab start, showing no trouble with the elbow. The Nats will decide soon if he'll need one more. ... Ronald Belisario is close to a return to the Dodgers pen. He's been solid in rehab action. ... Mike Pelfrey will miss his next start for the Mets, but it's not an injury: his wife is having a baby, so they'll push his start back to let him be there. ... Adam Miller had a second surgery on his problematic finger. ... Rocco Baldelli has been relatively healthy this season in very limited action. He's on the DL now with an injured foot, bad timing with Jason Bay still out with the hamstring strain. ... I'm no math guy, but reading the work of Matt Swartz and Shawn Hoffman over the last few days reminds me of which guys I want on my side. In the Navy, it would have been like picking sides in a fight between the SEALs and some brownshoes.

Related Content:  Back,  Bad Start,  The Call-up

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Glasscock

After the debacle in the Bronx, one might expect your comment on the Smoltz labrum "recovery"?

Aug 07, 2009 10:33 AM
rating: -2
 
sbnirish77

Actually an entire review of the Red Sox decision to sign a walking MASH victims unit in the off-season and the efforts of the Red sox medical staff to keep them on the field would seem to be in order.

But it might be pretty difficult to put a positive spin on that one.

Aug 08, 2009 12:53 PM
rating: -3
 
Dougie4512

If Smoltz is right, they get a solid innings-eater with a long line of playoff success (for what that's worth)...if Smoltz doesn't come back, they've lost a handful of major league starts. That's all. It's a worthwhile gamble.

And yes, it would be difficult to put a positive spin on an organization that correctly leverages its economic advantages to take chances on players. It would be difficult to put a positive spin on an organization that has won 2 World Series in the last 5 years. It would be difficult to put a positive spin on an organization that has made the playoffs 4 of the past 5 years.

By the way, I hate the Red Sox.

Aug 09, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 2
 
mglick0718

Any chance that the warmup pitch Niese threw aggravated the initial injury he had from the stretch, or did that merely show conclusively that he had done something serious? I ask because after the stretch he was able to walk (gingerly) back to the mound, but after the pitch he was writhing in pain and needed to be carried off the field. I would think if the stretch tore the hamstring completely he would have been incapacitated immediately.

Aug 07, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Charles Kurz

Great minds, glick.

Aug 07, 2009 11:23 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Hard to say. At best, it was hanging by a thread, literally, and would have needed the same type of treatment.

Aug 07, 2009 12:39 PM
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Watching the video again, he never tested the leg and was limping - watch the right leg. It clearly gave during the warm up landing, but that's not where it should be taxed. As he's coming over it, the hamstring will tighten to keep the knee from hyperextending and ... it just never happens. I don't think it was there, or strong enough at that stage. I can't say definitively though.

Aug 07, 2009 12:43 PM
 
Charles Kurz

Any chance Niese's hammy was only strained (or something less severe) before he threw that practice pitch, at which point the injury was made much, much worse? Not that I'm one of those Mets fans blaming the training staff for everything or saying this was their fault, but I'm just curious.

Aug 07, 2009 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
beerd90210

re. the australians:

while living in New Zealand, I saw on tv a guy layout and hit his head on someone's knee in a rugby match. He was clearly, via slo-mo replay, unconscious before he hit the ground. After a lengthy timeout, he remained in the game. Several times, a teammate had to actually point him in the right direction. the next day, he claimed absolutely no recall of the game whatsoever.

I can't imagine how insane you'd go watching rugby full time, Will.

Aug 07, 2009 11:24 AM
rating: 1
 
esmcmaha

Will, watching the Niese injury, specifically the warmup pitch where he went down, was gruesome. I know the injury occurred on the stretch at the first base, but I immediately wondered if he even should have been allowed to throw the warmup pitch. I have to think the trainer now wonders the same thing.

So my question is: Did the trainer, in your opinion, do the right thing by allowing him to throw that pitch rather than get him off the field immediately? I don't mean to MMQB here, and the trainer obviously is acting with imperfect information, but isn't his role, or one of his roles, to step in there and say 'no, let's not take the chance'?

Aug 07, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: 1
 
esmcmaha

oops, sorry to repeat mglick's question. Stepped away from my computer in the middle of typing it and got beat to the punch.

Aug 07, 2009 11:30 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

The Mets training staff and strength/conditioning staff should get a good, long review in the off-season.

I'm beginning to also wonder if the field (dirt and grass composition) itself at Citi Field isn't playing a part in some of these leg injuries?

Aug 07, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Are more of these happening at home vs road? I honestly don't often check that.

Aug 07, 2009 12:44 PM
 
twon88

Reyes, not really sure when it occured but it was right before a west coast trip so it was at home; Delgado happened at home; Pagan hurt his groin earlier in the year at home, Castillo sprained his ankle at home, Niese at home; FMart said his leg had been bothering, not really sure when it started.

All I can think of at the moment

Aug 07, 2009 21:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Jay Bruce wants to remind you that visiting players are not immune, either.

I was at that game and though I haven't seen any replays, it didn't look pretty from where I was sitting either.

Aug 11, 2009 14:42 PM
rating: 0
 
BelongstotheReds

Will, can you give us some sense of what exactly therapy to break up scarring involves? Ultrasound? Thanks.

Aug 07, 2009 13:43 PM
rating: 0
 
DavidHNix

ROCCO BALDELLI and lowering expectations --

Go to Rocco's Baseball Reference page and scroll down to the Most Similar By Age table:

At age 21 he was Tris Speaker
At 22 he was Yaz
At 23 he was out all year with injury
At 24 he was Ellis Burks
At 25 he was Rondell White
At 26 he was Rip Repulski

In the department of curious coincidences, all but Rondell spent time as outfielders with the Red Sox, Baldelli's current job.

Aug 07, 2009 13:52 PM
rating: 2
 
montanabowers

Will:
I believe Hunter's injury is to his abductor or adductor - one of the two and I'm not sure which is which.

Aug 07, 2009 15:00 PM
rating: 0
 
saigonsam

"there's not much to go on in either the short or long term for Salty, but no one's mentioning Mackey Sasser, which is good"

-- until now

Aug 09, 2009 01:00 AM
rating: 0
 
PeterBNYC

Will, your observation that it seems Vern Gambetta's program for Reyes' continued productivity got junked along the way- How? by Reyes? by that dimwit strength coach who thought he could replace it with something "better"? by the ATC's, not monitoring and following up Reyes's continued compliance? It worked for a long time, why would anyone want to abandon it? If Reyes just drifted away from it, isn't that what a meduical staff is supposded to monitor! Or is this unfair? Concerned fans want to know....

Aug 10, 2009 10:21 AM
rating: 0
 
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