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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

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