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June 11, 2010

Under The Knife

Friday Update

by Will Carroll

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Jacoby Ellsbury (fractured ribs, ERD 7/1)
Peter Abraham pretty much tells you everything you need to know in his Boston Globe article. That leaves me with... well, not much to add. The statement issued by the Red Sox is tiptoeing around the fact that twice they missed something when it came to Ellsbury. This is a world-class medical staff and this could have happened to anyone, but it did happen to the Red Sox. Ellsbury came out pretty strongly earlier, but was able to get back on the same page... or should we say get back in line? Ellsbury's two distinct rib injuries—separate areas and separate traumas—leave a lot of holes in how this played out. Right now, Ellsbury will head to Tempe to work with the API team to try and get him back to a point of comfort and function. That's going to take at least a couple of weeks and will likely require a rehab assignment to get him some swings. We could be looking as long as the All-Star break before we see Ellsbury back in the Sox' lineup.

Nate McLouth (concussion, ERD TBD)
This might be the year of the collision. While Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida, and all those that have challenged the wall and lost might disagree, the one that scared me the most was the collision between McLouth and Heyward. They were running hard and there was a major size discrepancy. It's one thing to hit the wall, but the wall is stationary. Heyward is built like a wall and was closing fast on a guy who's built more like a high school freshman. Joe Simpson did a great job tying together a near-miss earlier in the game with the one that ended up with McLouth's heels in the air and his head striking the turf hard. He stayed down but never lost consciousness. Unfortunately, he's still having headaches and some sensitivity to light, two classic signs of post-concussion syndrome. The Braves will give McLouth a couple days to see if things clear up, as the Pirates did for his former teammate Ryan Doumit. Concussions are very scary things and unpredictable. Now, we just need to figure out why "I got it" seems to have stopped working this season.

Edinson Volquez (Tommy John surgery, ERD 7/10)
For those of you counting, Volquez has missed about 45 games while suspended. Of course, he's been rehabbing, playing in extended spring training games, and doing pretty much everything he would normally be doing, aside from cashing checks. He's been clocked in the mid-90s and seems to have the stamina to go 50 or so pitches when he gets a rehab start on Saturday. It's not the first day he's eligible to come back, as some have reported. Actually, he could have started a rehab assignment during the suspension, the way Manny Ramirez did last season. No, Volquez wasn't going to be ready any faster and really, that's the story here. Clomid wasn't going to help his recovery, but you really have to buy his story to say that his rehab was clean. No matter, this is the way baseball handles it and Volquez will be back at the All-Star break. The only question now is where he slots in. Watch to see if the Reds build his stamina up and point him toward the rotation, which could cost Mike Leake some starts as they try not to tax him (smart) or if they try Volquez in the pen to build him up and strengthen a weakness (also smart).

Todd Wellemeyer (strained quad, ERD 6/28)
Next time you hear someone complaining that a guy's not hustling down the line, point to this. Wellemeyer is headed for the DL with a quad strain suffered as he was trying to leg out a hit. I'm not giving anyone an excuse to be lazy, but this, to me, is a lot like tennis. If you go over to the local park or even a high school match, you'll see people running around line to line, coming up just short of the ball and panting as they try to get their wind back. Watch Wimbledon later this month and the pros will stop and let the ones they know they can't get to go by. Baseball has never seemed to get that concept, valuing grit and hustle so highly. Wellemeyer's quad strain won't keep him out much more than the minimum, but it's the kind of small thing that can cost a good team. The Giants should be able to deal with this pretty well, largely because they don't have much in the way of ticky-tack injuries.

Jimmy Rollins (strained calf, ERD 6/20)
J.A. Happ (strained forearm, ERD 6/25)
The facilities are getting quite the workout down in Clearwater, a fact that can't have the Phillies medical staff happy. Rollins is down there now and will begin another stint of rehab games on Monday. That timeline means that, as expected, the Phillies are being just a bit more cautious with Rollins than he would like. It's not enough to knock him way back; we're talking a couple days extra, but hopefully just enough to know that his calf isn't going to go sproing again. Rollins is going to be limited and self-limited, so don't expect anything in the way of steals until the All-Star break. The key for him now is defensive range. Observers say that in drills, Rollins isn't having much trouble with lateral motion, but doesn't seem confident in his ability to pivot or plant and throw. Those are two skills we'll have to watch for starting Monday. The Phillies are also watching Happ closely. After a disappointing first rehab outing with Single-A Clearwater, he'll step up to Double-A Reading on Sunday. The Phillies aren't tipping their hand about how they'll bring Happ back, but that's a bit of cart before the horse. Happ is going to have to show something in his next couple outings to prove his stuff has come back from his forearm issues before that's any sort of decision.

Derek Holland (strained shoulder, ERD 7/15)
Holland didn't make it through his bullpen session, only throwing 17 pitches before waving it off. The shoulder pain is different than the numbness he had before, but it's no better. Any thought of this being a transient problem that would go away with simple rest and treatment is gone, and the young starter is now facing a much longer process. The biggest issue right now is figuring out the problem. Many are pointing to the symptoms and saying thoracic outlet syndrome. If that's the case, something is in the water in Arlington because there's no other explanation for what's going on there. The Rangers medical staff will regroup and try to figure out what's causing the issue for Holland. In the meantime, Tommy Hunter is holding onto the rotation slot nicely, which has to make the bad news on Holland sting a bit less.

Todd Helton (vision)
Huston Street (strained shoulder, ERD 6/13)

Helton might have LASIK surgery over the All-Star break. He didn't offer much in detail as to why he's discussing having the operation, but maybe he read something about it and thought it would work for him. Losing 100 points off his batting average might be a better reason for checking. Helton hasn't committed to it, and in my personal experience, a couple days of adjustment might be pushing it a bit. My eyes took about a week before I was fully comfortable with the changes, but those changes were pretty significant. Helton, who as a ballplayer can be assumed to have very good eyesight, might have much smaller changes. It's worth noting. The issue isn't elective for Street, but the news is good. He was scheduled to pitch yesterday and today in Triple-A Colorado Springs. While his performance wasn't great, it's more how he recovers and comes out today that will determine whether the Rockies activate him. Right now, even if activated, he's not going right back to closing. The shoulder is still an issue, and even back in the pen, Street's not in the clear.
 

Jeff Suppan
Fans often wonder why teams are so reluctant to just cut players when they under-perform. They might be getting an object lesson in why. It appears that Suppan is headed to the St. Louis Cardinals—or rather back—where a reunion with Dave Duncan might result in a short-term turnaround. Anything positive is going to be as much a knock on the Brewers in the public eye as it is another feather in Duncan's cap. At worst, Suppan soaks up some innings and costs the major-league minimum salary. With nothing physically wrong and nothing mechanically wrong—or at least I'm assuming that Rick Peterson had exhausted his toolbox trying—I'm not sure what Duncan can do, but he's done it over and over with players similar to Suppan. Heck, he did it with Suppan once before.

 Quick Cuts: Vicente Padilla did well in his rehab start and will make one more. If that goes well, he'll slot back into the Dodgers' rotation late next week. ... Former Diamondbacks first-round pick Jarrod Parker is scheduled to pitch in minor-league games sometime during August. He'll be about a year post-Tommy John at that point. ... Miguel Montero is expected back this weekend. The D-backs will immediately use him as the starting catcher, though expect extra rest. ... Bud Norris will make a rehab start on Saturday ... Jose Tabata had some hamstring issues, but didn't look like it legging out a double in Thursday's game for the Pirates ... Kevin Youkilis left with "mild back spasms" on Thursday. He's not expected to miss any time. ... John Maine will start a rehab assignment in Double-A on Sunday. He's expected back quickly if things go well. ... Rick Ankiel is at Triple-A Omaha rehabbing. He's expected back in Kansas City in a week or so. ... Gil Meche tested his shoulder on Wednesday and it didn't go well. He'll try once more over the weekend, but then things get serious. ... J.J. Hardy hits the DL with his chronic wrist problem. There's no timeframe for his return. ... Jeremy Jeffress is back from his second drug suspension and headed for the bullpen. The flame-throwing Brewers propsect has the stuff to succeed there and he won't have off days, which could be a big help ... Daisuke Matsuzaka blamed his illness on some bad sushi. What happened to the personal chef he got as part of his Red Sox contract? ... Never thought Dick Vitale would make it into UTK, but he did. He's day-to-day with bruised ribs. How much different would baseball be if it had a Dick Vitale-type on the call of big games instead of Joe Morgan? (Love him or hate him, he promotes his game!)   

Related Content:  Back,  J.A. Happ,  Quad-a

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