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April 20, 2010

Under The Knife

Woe Are The O's

by Will Carroll

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I hate covering these but for over a month, I've been getting whispers that there was a PED suspension being appealed. The process can be an extensive one, involving hearings and testimony, as well as some negotiation. There's no room to "plead down" on a positive test, so the attack is usually on Christiane Ayotte and her Montreal lab. Yesterday, I learned that a high-ranking baseball executive spoke off the record about the suspension being announced. He said it was a pitcher, but I couldn't get any solid confirmation of that fact by the time I posted on Twitter. (And yes, I did feel some pressure to get this out, but I also realized that by doing so, I was pretty much guaranteeing that someone else would break the name first.) I feel very confident in my information on this, but still have no idea about the name or the substance (though it's not an amphetamine.) It's pretty amazing that in a world where the new iPhone is pictured on the net, that baseball could sneak through the entire multi-week process with no leaks. That speaks well of the process put in place by the OIC and the MLBPA. While I expect the announcement today, baseball moves at its own pace

Brian Roberts (herniated disc, 6/1)
Felix Pie (strained
lat, 7/1)

The news keeps getting worse for the Orioles. It's not bad enough that they're getting beaten on the field, but they're talent keeps dropping off. An O's fan e-mailed me over the weekend asking if the team got what the Mets had last year. While I still believe that the O's have some hope for the first time in a while, injuries can sap that quickly, at least for the short term. This isn't likely to be a Mets '09 situation and looking back, there's more a feel of Rays '06. There's a plan and there's pieces of it in place, but it still seems a ways off. The team will be without Pie and Roberts for a while. Roberts saw a back specialist and came away with discouraging news. The herniation is a real problem and may yet need surgery, but baseball operations president Andy MacPhail told reporters that Roberts was looking at "weeks, not days." That's better than months, but that's what enough weeks strung together end up as. Since the herniation is recurrent and had a setback at the slightest provocation after weeks of rehab, it's hard to say how this run at it will be any different. Roberts will start another strengthening program, but any setback could push this to surgery. With Pie, it's an odd one. Pie has a torn latissimus dorsi, the large muscle of the upper back. I can't remember any non-pitcher having this injury, but with the O's saying Pie could miss up to three months, it must be a devastating tear. As there are no good comps, I don't really have any direction on this, though the key will be how it affects his swing and his powerful throwing arm. 

Conor Jackson (strained hamstring, 5/15)

 

It's hard to deal with a Jackson injury without mentioning the wild-card effect of his fight with Valley Fever. While he's over the fungal infection that cost him nearly all of 2009, there has to be some question about his strength and stamina beyond any other effects. Jackson's hamstring strain Sunday didn't seem any more than the garden variety, but it was. As you can see on the MLB video, Jackson pulled up after he made the catch, but continued off the field under his own power. It looked painful, but hardly too worrisome. Sources tell me it's a significant Grade II strain right in the belly of the muscle (you can see where he grabs). He'll head to the DL while the Dbacks hope that he can come back quicker than the four weeks they're currently estimating. Gerardo Parra will take his place in the field, though the team elected to call up a pitcher to take his roster spot in the short term.

Carlos Beltran (knee surgery, 5/15)

Here's how much Mets fans panic—and how the New York media goads them into it. When the announcement came that Beltran was heading to Vail, the immediate reaction from the media were jokes about surgery, followed by the normal handwringing that Beltran hadn't yet run. Fact is that Beltran is heading to see his doctor to get just that clearance. Somehow it's been spun that a normal landmark checkup is a negative. That's not to say that there's been progress. Dick Steadman might look at the knee and say no, it's not there yet. All the signs and the timeline point to the next step being in place. As we've seen with Lance Berkman, the return from recurrent arthritic knee problems can be difficult and filled with setbacks. If Beltran is cleared and assuming none of those setbacks, he'll start running lightly and would be on track for a mid-May return.

Kelly Shoppach (knee surgery, 5/30)

Kelly Shoppach had knee surgery early Monday morning in Tampa. His knee sprain was visualized but not repaired. Instead, it was a tear in the meniscus that happened at the same time as the sprain that was causing continuing pain and swelling. The catcher will now miss about six weeks after the scoping, but in the medium-term, he should be able to come back without much issue. No surgery is ever minor, but in addition to the meniscus being corrected, the ligament will have time to heal up as well. Shoppach will begin the rehab process immediately and given the facts we know, it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up ahead of schedule.

Joe Blanton (strained oblique, 5/4)
J.A. Happ (strained flexor tendon, TBD)

While the Phillies pitching is hurting right now, with two of their starting five out, that doesn't appear to be a long-term issue. Blanton threw 60 pitches in the pen and will head out on a rehab assignment tonight in Single-A. The plan is that he'll have a short outing tonight, then one or two more starts at upper levels before returning in early May. Strained obliques do carry a risk of recurrence, especially early, but the Phillies have done this before and understand that moving slow is the best defense. They're watching Blanton closely and being conservative with their timeline on him. The luxury of having a Roy Halladay is that it alters the schedule for pitchers, both at the back of the rotation and in the pen. Blanton may not be an ace, but he's certainly someone the Phillies are looking forward to having back in the rotation. They're also hoping that Happ is back quickly. The team will have him throw a pen on Thursday and will determine when he comes back based on that. If he's relatively pain-free or at least making progress, he'll slot back in to the rotation early next week, but there's still a chance they'll need to push him to the DL. It's one thing to skip the fifth slot in the rotation and a whole different thing to try and skip the fourth.

Daric Barton (bruised elbow, 4/21)

Getting hit with a baseball hurts. That's no secret. When Daric Barton got hit on the elbow, he and the medical staff both saw enough—and I'm sure Barton felt enough—to worry about a fracture. After x-rays were inconclusive, he had an MRI which showed a deep bone bruise. That's much better than a break, even though the pain is just the same. We've heard a lot more about bone bruises over the past couple years, especially with knees, because of advances in imaging technology. Just as we can now visualize hip labrums more clearly, MRIs are now allowing doctors to look "inside" bones to see the damage done by compression injuries like being hit with a baseball. The treatment for injuries like this is simple, usually amounting to rest, some anti-inflammatories, and some electrical stimulation, which seems to have a positive effect on the bones even at much lower intensity than those used on muscles. Barton should have little or no trouble coming back once he gets over the stiffness and pain.

Russell Branyan (herniated disc, 4/20)

The Indians could use a little power infusion, something they'll get when Branyan is activated. He's expected to start at first base, shifting Matt LaPorta to the outfield. In today's defense-focused sabermetric world, a team starting three DHs is counterintuitive, but I guess someone has to hit the balls that everyone else is trying to catch. Branyan's long-term issues with a lumbar disc seem to be under control for now, but the Indians medical staff will be in full maintenance mode for Branyan in addition to him needing regular rest. Branyan's power has always given him chances and now, smart teams like the Mariners and Indians seem as focused on what a player like him can do (slug) as what he can't (pretty much everything else.) MLB.com had an interesting interview with Branyan about what he did in the off-season. Hearing that he worked out with Khalil Greene perked up my ears.

Quick Cuts: Ian Kinsler will run today and if that goes well, he could be across town on a rehab assignment by Thursday. Once his ankle is ready, the Rangers will be aggressive getting Kinsler back in the lineup. ... Given that it's a stoner "holiday" today, I think this should serve as a reminder that MLB does not have a suspension policy for the use of marijuana. They do test for it. ... Cliff Lee will throw a sim game on Tuesday. If it goes well, he'll make one rehab start, then go into the rotation on May 2. That doesn't seem to account for the suspension, so we'll have to see how that appeal goes. ... Ted Lilly had a nice outing in Peoria. He should be back in the Cubs rotation soon. ... There's some concern about how Jake Peavy is pitching, but I don't see any evidence for a physical problem, unless you consider age a physical problem. ... The Pirates expect Andy LaRoche to be back in the lineup. He's been out since Friday with back spasms. ... Desmond Jennings is back on the Durham roster. The Rays prospect has missed the start of the season with a wrist injury, another in a list of maladies that has held him back. ... Contrary to prior reports, Cliff Pennington did have an x-ray after having his hand stepped on. It was negative, so no big deal here. ... The Blue Jays will skip Brian Tallet's next start to give his forearm some extra treatment and rest. ... Miguel Tejada thinks he'll be in the lineup on Tuesday after a quad strain. I'm not so sure he's not pushing back too soon, Chipper Jones-style.

Related Content:  Back,  The Process,  Quad-a

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

BP Comment Quick Links

dianagram

Re: Pie ... he stated that he first felt it after a throw from the outfield, so the "pitcher injury" aspect might be somewhat valid here? Is it a "sharp trauma" or "overuse" type of injury?

Apr 20, 2010 08:03 AM
rating: 1
 
dalbano

What disc(s) did Roberts herniate?

Is there any difference among the levels herniated(Cervical to Lumbar) when it comes to allowing baseball activities following rehab or surgery?

Apr 20, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Lumbar is worse - more weight on it. None are good. Seldom see any of the T's going, but not sure why.

Apr 20, 2010 10:25 AM
 
SC

If Roberts does need surgery is he done for the year?

Apr 20, 2010 11:04 AM
rating: 1
 
winterm2

Thoracic discs seldom herniate because the vertebrae have the ribcage to support them and minimize some of the stress.

Apr 20, 2010 11:57 AM
rating: 1
 
Andy

Do MLB teams find out if their players tested positive for marijuana? Also, would moving a player to the 40 man prevent a suspension for marijuana since Minor League does suspend on it.

Apr 20, 2010 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I dont know if they're supposed to, but know they do. Easy to figure it out.

And no, suspension is based on the status on the date of test. The serving of suspensions is an open question. There have been a couple where it's been a big question.

Apr 20, 2010 13:59 PM
 
tommybones

Edinson Volquez is the pitcher drawing the 50 game PED ban.

Apr 20, 2010 12:12 PM
rating: 1
 
ClubberLang

Well, that'll screw up his chances of winning the Rookie of the Year this year.

Apr 20, 2010 12:18 PM
rating: 9
 
Andy

There's always next year.

Apr 20, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: 2
 
Dano

And it won't stop writers from voting for him (present company excluded).

Apr 21, 2010 08:38 AM
rating: 0
 
cyborg

The report says that the 50 game suspension starts tomorrow. I realize he will still lose pay but why wouldn't the suspension wait until he's healthy? If a guy gets suspended for beaning or charging the mound, appeals it, then goes on the DL, he can't drop the appeal and serve while he's on the DL.

Apr 20, 2010 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
Nathan

You know, I think there's an ethical difference between using controlled substances to aid in recovery and using them to gain an illicit advantage while healthy. Steroids do have legitimate purposes; doctors prescribe them all the time.

Not really justifying Volquez, just saying we should have more information before judging him. Specifically: what did he take and why did he take it?

I also wonder what the Reds will do if indeed they have to activate Volquez before the suspension begins. Would it be worth it to punt a roster spot for 50 games, so he can serve the suspension while recovering? Lots of teams barely use the last guy on their bench anyway. 10 games of Volquez might be worth as much as your typical rule five pick.

Apr 20, 2010 12:33 PM
rating: 1
 
cyborg

Except that unauthorized PEDs are against the rules in baseball even if a player is healing. If a banned substance is prescribed by a doctor, I believe (could be mistaken tho') there is a mechanism that will allow the player to get approval from baseball. By now everyone knows the rules whether they make sense or not.

Apr 20, 2010 13:47 PM
rating: 3
 
Nathan

I certainly agree he should be penalized, but maybe not with the lasting shame of cheaterhood fans usually apply to other PED violators.

Apr 20, 2010 16:04 PM
rating: 0
 
cyborg

The problem is that we will really never know what he took and we can only go with his response on why he took it. He says he was trying to have a baby and having fertility issues. Do we know this is the truth? Not really and we are left, yet again, to make our own judgement as to the truth of his statements.

This certainly isn't anything new but quite frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of these "excuses" or half truths every time someone gets caught.

You are free to choose to believe him and give him the benefit of the doubt. I cannot do that because I've been burned too many times and I think the majority of the fans are in my boat. It really is sad because he might be telling the truth.

Apr 20, 2010 17:54 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

If he was taking a drug that was on the banned list for a valid medical reason, he could have applied for a TUE (therapeutic use exemption.) There are very valid reasons for TUEs - players taking ADD medicine when they have ADD, certain allergy medicines, even some players that need testosterone supplementation (Mike Lowell is one, post-testicular cancer.) That Volquez did not do this removes any excuse he may have. He violated the policy, period.

Apr 20, 2010 20:44 PM
 
ddufourlogger

Would be shocked if it wasn't something he was told would help him heal faster....perhaps HGH? And I guess I'd have assumed that the suspension had to be enforced while the player was Active? Is that not true? He can serve the 50 while on the DL?

Apr 20, 2010 13:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHH.

*pause*

Ok, it's not HGH. There's no test for it. (Yes, I know, but ...) We don't know what it is, but it's on the list and he tested positive for it.

And yes, it appears he can serve it while on the DL. I'm not sure what the rule is there. We've never had this come up as far as I know. Sure doesn't seem right, though the cost to Volquez is the same.

Apr 20, 2010 14:02 PM
 
gaborde

What do you mean by this?: "There's no room to "plead down" on a positive test, so the attack is usually on Christiane Ayotte and her Montreal lab. "

Apr 20, 2010 14:01 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Just that. You can't say "If I plead guilty, would you give me 25 games?" The only defense is that the test was incorrect.

Apr 20, 2010 14:14 PM
 
misterjohnny
(925)

Will, Is Chris Johnson really injured?

Apr 20, 2010 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Has to have something to put on the Standard Form.

Apr 20, 2010 20:44 PM
 
amazin_mess

How did the Mets fans panic about Beltran?

Apr 21, 2010 02:25 AM
rating: -1
 
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