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April 14, 2010

Under The Knife

Mid-Week Aches and Pains

by Will Carroll

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After a great night at the Camden Yards event—trust me, you should be kicking yourself if you didn't hear Andy MacPhail's takes on competing in the AL East, the signing of Aroldis Chapman, and how the Orioles use statistical analysis—I've been in the D.C./Baltimore area for some meetings on another sport, and to check out the rest of the O's/Rays series. But the injuries don't stop while I'm on the road, so with the iPad in hand, on to the issues at hand:

Jimmy Rollins (strained calf, ERD 5/20)
Jayson Werth (strained hip flexor, ERD 4/16)

The Phillies have enough talent to survive the loss of one of their stars, but two? That could be the question facing the team in the near-term as both Rollins and Werth have injuries. Rollins is more pressing and serious, a Grade II gastrocnemius (calf) strain that was diagnosed quickly on the field. The confirming diagnosis was made after an MRI, one that took place Tuesday. While the Phillies did not announce the results or a DL move, there's almost no chance that there's new information. Strains, especially of this sort are very easy to diagnose and grade with simple manual tests. Much of Philly panicked upon seeing Rollins in a soft cast, hobbling into his MRI. It's a painful injury and the Phillies are bound to be careful with their shortstop, so there's nothing to glean from that shot. Expect Rollins to be out through the back end of the two-to-four week timeframe that's been put up. The situation is a bit less clear for Werth: he has what the team is saying is a mild hip flexor strain, but there are whispers that there's something more serious. The team did hide the severity of Chase Utley's hip injury, but remember that he also played through it. There's no reason to believe the rumors, but it's worth keeping in the back of your head in case we get more info or if Werth stays out more than a couple days.

Wandy Rodriguez (shoulder stiffness)
Never ask what more could go wrong for a team. Even as bad as things are for the Astros, losing Rodriguez would make it worse. After an outing that lasted only 65 pitches and included no strikeouts (but throwing with normal velocity), Rodriguez admitted to the media that he had some shoulder stiffness. Reports from sources close to the team think it may be a bit more than that, with scouts noting that his spring stats were similarly off. While Rodriguez blamed his spring struggles on work he was doing to change his stride and landing, that's a bit too fine an adjustment to see this kind of negative shift. If Rodriguez was losing velocity or movement due to a change in arm slot or shoulder strength, that's a bit more understandable. Think of it as a medhead version of the lex parsimoniae. This one is going to bear watching closely, to see if Rodriguez does his normal side work and how he does in his next start.

Kelly Shoppach (sprained knee, ERD 4/30)
The Rays started Tuesday's game with only one catcher, as Shoppach was placed on the DL with a sprained knee, suffered in last weekend's series with the Yankees, while John Jaso was summoned from Triple-A. Jaso and his Bulls team were in Gwinnett County, near Atlanta; he didn't make it to the dugout until the seventh inning of a tight game. Worse, Dioner Navarro fouled one off his kneecap, making Joe Maddon look over at Sean Rodriguez, his emergency catcher. Navarro was able to stay in the game, but really took one for the team. Shoppach's sprain is not considered serious, and he should be back relatively quickly. He was in the dugout on Tuesday night and wasn't limping noticeably, especially after Carlos Pena's game-tying homer, when he was jumping around in celebration. Navarro has been banged up and in a time share, so Jaso figures to see some action.

Huston Street (shoulder inflammation, ERD 5/15)
Jeff Francis (post-labrum surgery, ERD 6/15)

You want the good news or the bad news first, Rockies fans? Let's stay positive, as the Hold Steady implores us. Street and Francis are making some progress in their throwing programs. Both are throwing and moving toward a return to long toss and the mound. While Street's setbacks have been more documented, Francis' return is being watched as closely by the Rockies. Still attempting to return after labrum surgery, Francis is also a bit of a bell cow for Brandon Webb, given their similar styles and similar surgeries. There's still no solid date for Francis' return as, like Webb, he has had setbacks as he gets closer to full-go. The Rockies have been conservative with him and we'll see how it pays out. At 15 months post-surgery, it's hard to understand why there's not been more progress. Street's action is a step forward, but it's a slow step. It would surprise me if he's back before mid-May unless he speeds things up in the next 10 days.

Erik Bedard (shoulder, ERD 5/25)
Don Wakamatsu said that Erik Bedard was "ahead of schedule." Since there's really been no official schedule for him, it's tough to say where that puts him. I haven't expected much from him at all, but I haven't expected anything from him until June. Now, he may be ahead of that, but it's still a late-May target point. There's also no indication that Bedard has suddenly refound the stuff he had before the shoulder problems. He's an almost complete unknown at this stage, rather than the mid-season upgrade many Mariners fans are dreaming on. While he'll get the chance to do just that and the M's are smart for doing so on the cheap, they also realize that anything from Bedard is bonus, that this is really just trying to salvage a bad previous deal and turning it into something good.

Brad Ausmus (pinched nerve in back, ERD 5/1)
I normally don't pay much attention to backup catchers, but this season, more than most, it seems like catching is at a premium. I'm not sure if there's a generation of Gregg Zauns and Brad Ausmuses out there, in part because those guys have hung around so long. Ausmus is having major back problems and has had epidural injections in hope of avoiding surgery. If he does have to go to the surgical route, it would likely mean the end of the line for the long-time catcher and likely future manager. A.J. Ellis will fill in, at least for the short term, though the possibilities behind Russell Martin are all uninspiring. While Ausmus' ERD is set with the possibility that the epidurals take hold, there's more than an even chance that he might be done.

Quick Cuts: Bronson Arroyo made his start after taking a comebacker off the calf last time out. He wasn't great, but there's no evidence that the calf bruise will be a long-term problem. ... Cliff Lee's suspension hearing on Wednesday could give you some guidance on his DL stint: since he can't start serving the suspension until he's off the DL, look for that move to give us a week's early warning on his first start. Unless the suspension is wiped out—unlikely—he's on schedule to be back in late April. ... Scott Kazmir passed his final test and will start against the Yankees on Thursday. ... I got the chance to see Brian Matusz live for the first time, and was very impressed. He's a very smooth lefty with a deceptive delivery. ... Trevor Cahill sounds like he's close to heading out on a rehab assignment, according to Susan Slusser. That's a big step from where he was just a week ago, so watch this one closely. ... Brad Hawpe left Tuesday's game with a quad strain, but no news on severity at deadline. With Carlos Gonzalez also dealing with a hamstring strain, stocking the Rockies' outfield is a bit of an issue for Jim Tracy. ... John Maine is a mechanical mess right now, and his velocity is also cause for concern. It will be interesting to see how the Mets deal with this; I know a few teams are hoping that they panic and they can vulture in on a deal. ... I'll be back on Friday with another full UTK. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@injuryexpert) for brief bursts of news and discussion.

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