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September 20, 2010

Under The Knife

Concussion Problem Worsens

by Will Carroll

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Jason LaRue (concussion, 10/4)

As the Reds get ready for the playoffs, LaRue is about to get ready for the rest of his life. If you follow my NFL coverage at all, you'll know how serious the concussion issue has become in the that league and for football in general. Baseball has its own problems with the issue as well, with Justin Morneau and Jason Bay out now, but news on LaRue is going to bring it to the fore again. LaRue is going to retire as a result of his severe concussion, which came about as a result of several kicks by Johnny Cueto during the early August brawl between the Cardinals and Reds. Now the longtime catcher is heading towards retirement as a result of continuing symptoms. Granted, LaRue was towards the end of his career, but there are much older (and much worse) backup catcher options out there, so we have to take this as a career-ending injury, one that prevented continuing income. I'm not sure if LaRue is even considering suing Cueto, but baseball's suspension of the Reds pitcher was ridiculous at the time and is now bordering on criminal. No excuses, if you're firing up an e-mail. Kicking someone anywhere, no matter the situation, is simply wrong. Cueto not only kicked LaRue, he kicked him repeatedly and knowingly. There's just no way to make this right. We can only hope LaRue doesn't face long-term consequences and wish him the best of luck with whatever comes next. Know what would be perhaps the best gesture? The offer of a coaching position by the Reds, the team for which he broke into the major leagues with in 1999 and spent eight seasons with.

Tyler Colvin (chest injury, TBD)

On any other day, Colvin would be the lead. "Impaled by bat shard" is as stark as it gets. It wasn't quite as bad as it initially sounded—he wasn't felled, it didn't stick out of him, he was well enough to get home on the play and score, but how close was this to tragedy? "About three inches," said a source. "Three inches down it could have been bad, but there's the rib cage. It's three inches up, into the soft, unprotected neck. If it hits the jugular, he dies right there on the field or maybe he gets saved like Clint Malarchuk. (Do NOT click that link if you're squeamish.) Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan discussed this issue and people have been questioning how to prevent this issue—and I don't know as I write this whether or not the bat was maple—for quite a while. I have no idea whether or not this will end up being the turning point for the issue, but players tend to resist any change, no matter how logical and it's not like Bud Selig has a reputation for rushing into anything. Colvin will remain hospitalized for a couple days. He has a tube in the wound to prevent any further issues. Colvin will be OK in the long term and while the Cubs will shut him down for the season as a precaution after the chest wound, it could have been a lot worse. A whole lot.

Geovany Soto (strained shoulder, 10/4)

The Cubs had more bad news on Sunday as they announced that Soto would have shoulder surgery. Soto has had on and off problems with this shoulder and is taking the time now to get it done in hopes that he won't have those problems going forward. Sources tell me the shoulder is lax and will need to be tightened and cleaned out. There's no reason to think he won't be back for spring training given the timing, but there's a longer term for getting back to 100%. Some think that Soto might need some time away from catcher to heal and first base is certainly an option. The long-term prognosis for something like this is very good, but there's not a lot of catchers that have gone through it. This adds one more question to the laundry list that the Cubs have this upcoming offseason.

Andres Torres (appendectomy, 9/27)

ESPN's Buster Olney called Torres' appendectomy the pivotal injury of the pennant chase and it's tough to disagree with him on this one. It's pretty amazing that Torres has a chance to come back from the surgery, let alone miss only a couple weeks. The advances in laproscopy don't make this painless. It's minimally invasive, not uninvasive. There's still issues of muscle being cut and soreness near the incisions. Torres is ramping up the activity and there have been some reports that he could be back for the pivotal weekend series with the Rockies. We'll have to wait and see, but there will be plenty of clues leading up to it, but the key one will be when he's able to hit and field, even lightly.


Jimmy Rollins (strained hamstring, 9/28)

Rollins took batting practice from the right side of the plateSunday, a step forward for him, almost literally. Rollins' right hamstring is the "power" or drive leg from that side and has been the real limitation. Rollins has been available as a lefty pinch-hitter in an emergency but the Phillies haven't had to use him due to roster expansion. The hope is that Rollins can test it a bit more, start up some light running this week and get back into games before the postseason. There's some concern that Rollins won't be ready by the end of the season, which would put the Phillies in a very tough situation. The roster expansion has allowed them to hide Rollins, but they're obviously a better team when he's available. It would be a big risk putting him on the playoff roster if the team isn't sure he'll be able to go. There is the replacement rule in place, but that's an extreme step. Look for any kind of movement on this over the next week.
 

Joe Mauer (inflamed knee, 9/20)

Denard Span (sprained shoulder, 9/21)

The Twins have enough of a lead that they're starting to rest guys. They might wish they'd done that sooner with Mauer, who's been playing with a number of issues since mid-summer. With his contract, you'd think that the Twins might be more concerned about this, but Mauer has put up huge numbers since Justin Morneau went down. I know that 'random endpoints' can be an issue for a lot of these, but the more people I talk to around Mauer, the more I think he consciously "stepped it up." Like clutch, I'm not sure that's a real skill or even how you could tell. Mauer left Sunday's game with a "jammed knee," which is likely just some increased inflammation and/or some decreased range of motion. The Twins will get him some rest over the next 10 days. Span needed rest after injuring his shoulder on a diving catch, but it's not so serious that he would have gone on the DL if this wasn't September.
 

Jake Arrieta (inflamed elbow/bone chips, 10/4)

The Orioles have had quite the turnaround under Buck Showalter, but before that, the thought was that this team would go as far as their young pitching took it. Actually, it kind of worked out that way, but there's certainly some hope that pitchers like Brian Matusz and Arrieta took a step forward this year. Arrieta's season ends on a bit of a down note as he heads for surgery on his elbow. It's "simple bone chips" according to the team, a surgery that should have few long-term concerns. Arrieta will have the procedure and be able to do a normal off-season's throwing program, which usually starts in January. There's really no reason to think that Arrieta will have any physical problems heading into 2011.

Carlos Guillen (arthritic knee, 10/4)

It was a bit of a surprise when it was announced that Guillen had microfracture surgery, but this article from MLB.com's Jason Beck gives a lot of details on what they did and why. Guillen's knee was a bit more damaged than they expected, but it sounds as if Dr. Michael Warren was prepared for this possibility going into it. That's why surgeons always want to "take a look," no matter how many MRIs or manual tests the player has had. Guillen will be "ready" for spring training, but it's doubtful he'll be doing full activity until late into camp. It's possible, but not probable that he would be 100% for opening day either. Remember the timetable for Grady Sizemore was built around him being ready for spring training and compare the dates. As with Sizemore, there's not much in the way of positive comps, but the procedure is getting better results over the years in other sports.

Quick Cuts:

Ron Washington thinks that Josh Hamilton will be ready for the postseason, according to FanHouse. That matches up with everything I've heard, where the hope was he would get 10 days of at-bats to test his ribs and get his swing right before the playoffs started ... A lot of people have been asking about Troy Tulowitzki's power post-wrist injury. Yes, it's unusual. Not unprecedented ... Mat Latos is visibly fatigued. The Padres have some hard decisions to make over the next week ... Mark Teixeira has a deep bruise on the body of his thumb to go with his broken toe. Look for Joe Girardi to rest him quite a bit over the next week, which could also help Jorge Posada ... Chris Young went only four innings and 69 pitches during his Saturday start, but the Pads seemed encouraged. He'll go again on normal rest ... Erick Aybar has a sports hernia. He'll be re-evaluated at mid-week, but it's likely his season is over ... Laynce Nix was activated off the DL. The Reds will watch Nix over the next two weeks to see if he'll make the post-season roster ... Coco Crisp has a broken pinky. He'll be evaluated by a specialist, but thinks he can play through it ... Riann Spanjer-Fursterburg would have to be the longest name in baseball, no? It's longer than William VanLandingham ... No Jay-Z today, but how about some Alicia?

Related Content:  Andres Torres,  Jason LaRue

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