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August 25, 2009

Under The Knife

Don't Panic

by Will Carroll

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Johan Santana (9/10)
Jeff Francoeur (8/28)

You want the bad news first, Mets fans? Santana is headed back to New York for an MRI and a visit with David Altchek. It's his elbow that's going to be checked out, and the worry about velocity indicates that he's not able to get full extension due to pain. He's had no control issues, so the easy guess is that he's had a recurrence of bone spurs. We don't know this yet, and we won't until the MRI's results become known, but the panic gripping Mets fans is based on less. Santana is likely to be shut down and could be done for the season based on the findings. Assume that the Mets will be very conservative with their ace and that it will take almost an "all clear" for him to pitch prior to what would be a 15-day stint. (Remember, with the upcoming roster expansion, it might not make sense to DL Santana.) The ERD of September 10th is a bit optimistic, but I'm not ready to completely write off Santana's '09 campaign yet. The Mets also learned that Francouer has a sprained thumb. He wanted to play through the "significant" tear, but there's always some cost to this, and Francoeur hasn't played well through pain in the past. It's not like he has been setting the world on fire when healthy, so there was really no reason to risk it at least until the swelling is down. The worst sign? It hurts most when he swings and misses. Ray Ramirez and his staff will have even more work before and after games keeping Francouer available.

Carlos Beltran (9/9)
David Wright (8/31)

Now for the good news. Beltran reports that he's been doing much better with running over the past few weeks, and he'll be ready to try running the bases in the next few days. If that goes well, he'll go on a very short rehab assignment and will be back in New York to test his knees out. There's some considerable risk, which the Mets and Beltran understand going into this, and which is why there's an intermediate step: before he even goes on the rehab, he'll have another MRI to check the bruises in his knee and have that checked to make sure he's not doing any more damage. His lack of pain and symptoms is one thing, but the Mets aren't going to let Beltran take on too much risk in what is an already lost campaign. The news is clearer for Wright, as he's seeing clearly, reacting well, and showing no post-concussion symptoms. Wright is already fielding, and will take batting practice later in the week. He's likely to come off of the DL when eligible, assuming that there are no more setbacks. He is eligible on August 30th, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the team wait until rosters expand to make the move.

Justin Upton (8/28)
Upton was scheduled to make a start Monday at High-A, just a few weeks after others were panicking about another oblique strain that could end his season. It didn't, obviously, and it never really was going to if you understood the signs, even very early on. Even with some conservatism inspired by the team's record, Upton is going to be back much quicker than 40 days. There's really nothing to worry about here besides the standard recurrence risk, but the team is being cautious, and Upton should be back by the end of the week. The team does have a bit of a roster crunch, but guys like Upton are the ones that force moves. He'll get his at-bats once healthy.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (9/1)
Comebacks from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome tend to involve a lot of time and things like having a rib removed. Saltalamacchia is avoiding all of that... for now. There are a lot of questions about whether he'll be able to avoid it altogether, but Salty is back swinging a bat and being watched closely. When rosters expand, it's possible that he could come back, though it seems that with Ivan Rodriguez already in place, the Rangers aren't counting on much from Saltalamacchia. That's not such a bad thing, since it allows them to rest him, perhaps use him at DH, or to be part of what might look like a kitchen-sink attack in September, with the expected additions of Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, Max Ramirez, and a partridge in a pear tree. Every little bit helps, and if Salty is able to avoid the dreaded TOS surgery, the Rangers get even better for 2010.

Ryan Hanigan (9/10)
Chris Dickerson (9/20)

Dusty Baker is even saying injuries are an excuse now. The team has had a ridiculous run of bad luck and bad injuries in the second half. Hanigan took a mean foul tip off of his mask; even though it caught him flush, it was enough to give him a mild concussion. The team recognized this quickly and decided to DL their catcher. It's a smart move, though it is perhaps a bit of a reaction to the recent experience with Scott Rolen. Dickerson's ankle injury was one of the more painful-looking injuries I've seen this season. It's bad enough to get hurt, but he was out after his left ankle rolled as completely as I've seen in a while. You might notice his shoes; it's more clear as he's down and then pops up at about the 15-second mark, but those shoes aren't tied very tight. Is that important? John Wooden, the UCLA coaching legend, used to start each season's practice with a lesson in tying shoes. I'm not sure if Dickerson gets his ankles taped, though few players do as a matter of course. Maybe more should.

Randy Johnson (9/12)
The Giants still harbor playoff hopes, and have visions of a Lincecum/Cain/Johnson hydra to attack their NL competition with in a short series. Unfortunately, Johnson may or may not be back this season due to shoulder problems, but both parties have agreed that he'll keep working towards a return for now. He's throwing on flat ground now, but will need to have an accelerated timetable if he's going to get back into the rotation. Don't be surprised if the pen becomes an option or if the Giants get a little creative if things are tight in mid-September. Johnson's shoulder is bad, but at his age he's willing to push further than most will for a chance at another shot at the playoffs. They'll let this play out for the next couple pf weeks before making some hard decisions, assuming they even need to be made. If the Giants fall out of contention, Johnson will likely shut it down, but there's talk of his return in '10.

Quick Cuts: Justin Morneau was back in the lineup yesterday, and seems over his ear infection. ... Brett Myers threw a scheduled rehab start in Sally League, going an inning; we'll have to wait to see how this determines his next step, which could include a shift to the pen. ... Carl Crawford left Monday's game with back stiffness, which bears watching. ... Aaron Cook came out of the MRI tube with good news on his shoulder; the Rockies will see how he responds to treatment this week. ... Ryan Church is expected to miss a few more games with some back problems. ... As I said the other day, Tim Hudson continues to build towards a return to the Atlanta rotation. He's building his stamina, going 89 pitches in his last start. The Braves may have him throw one more outing in Gwinnett so as to wait for roster expansion. ... Both Roy Halladay and Josh Beckett didn't have their best stuff last time out, but not every bad start is an injury or even fatigue. It's OK not to panic, people. ... I'm back in the travel whirlpool tomorrow, so no UTK for Wednesday. I'll see you Thursday before I head out to Ft. Myers.

Related Content:  Back,  Bad Start,  Rosters

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