September 21, 2010
Under The Knife
A Strain is a Tear
I've often joked that my tombstone should read "A strain is a tear!" because I've had to repeat that phrase so often. The concept that a strain or sprain is the same as a tearing or "pull" of a muscle is one that isn't hard, but that a majority of sports fans have never heard. Just as the sabermetric struggle with the idea that many haven't gotten past wins and batting average yet in baseball, the idea that some of the medhead basics aren't more widely known is both a frustration and a blessing. A strain is a tear. Concussions are serious. Fatigue is a pitcher's biggest enemy. Those are the basics, but there's so much more and each day, there's someone new that needs to hear them for the first time. I imagine a schoolteacher would feel the same way, teaching children that 1+1=2 or that it's "i" before "e" year after year. The difference is that I don't get to see the progress. I don't get to feel proud at graduation, that I had some small part. Since starting this column, I've learned an incredible amount, humbled by the things that I don't know, blessed when the sources I work with take the time to explain something to me, and then I get to try and share it. I hope you'll pardon the days where I'm answering the same question for the millionth time and I snapped a bit. There is some small progress. If baseball (and other sports) move at a glacial pace, that just means that every slow inch counts. Powered by Peet's New Guinea coffee, which might be the best mass-market coffee in the world, let's get to the injuries:
Tyler Colvin (chest injury, ERD 10/4)
Geovany Soto (sprained shoulder, ERD 10/4)
Colvin will be OK, despite his... what should we call it? Initial reports said the bat had lodged in his chest, one that I tweeted and saw fly around the web for hours, even after clarifying it. It's not an impaling, but perhaps the closest term—stabbing—comes with connotations that imply intent. The shard of Rawlings maple that injured Colvin has raised all sorts of hue and cry, perhaps most strongly from Ken Rosenthal. It's also raised conspiracy theories. A company called BatGlove has implied that manufacturers, specifically Rawlings, conspired with Major League Baseball to pull an approved method of rendering maple bats safer. BatGlove has a technique similar to that developed by leading cricket manufacturer Grey-Niccols called Extratec. This video shows how the substance works and it's reasonable to assume that this method would work for baseball bats as well. We'll see if MLB is pushed to action or whether bat manufacturers do something proactively. Colvin is very likely done for the season. The news on Soto's shoulder surgery was more positive than expected. The procedure was done entirely by scope and afterward, it was estimated that Soto could begin baseball activities by January, which is well ahead of initial forecasts. Knowing how limited Soto is going to be is key to the Cubs' plans for the offseason. Do they need a better backup, one that could step in for a couple months and take an everyday assignment, or could they get an Adam Dunn type who could play the outfield until Soto is moved off first base? Does Soto need to go on the "Victor Martinez plan" and get more time out from behind the plate? With everything connected and a potentially confusing offseason on the north side of Chicago, this key piece of information seems to be falling into place.
Joe Mauer (inflamed knee, ERD 9/21)
Mauer was left out of the lineup yesterday by the Twins as the team rests him. The hope is that recovering from an inflamed knee also gives his sore shoulder, sore back, and the other assorted bumps and bruises a catcher takes over the course of a long baseball season time to heal. The division is essentially wrapped up, so it's only fantasy players that seem overly concerned about Mauer's playing time. Mauer is expected to be back as soon as tonight, though sources tell me that the Twins would like to keep him out longer. Mauer is pushing to get back on the field, with some speculating that with Josh Hamilton still out, Mauer has a shot at the MVP again. One source laughed at that saying that Mauer is "one of those driven kids that goes nuts on the bench and worse in the training room." The comparison to Chipper Jones is pretty apt here and given Mauer's status, we have to hope that the Twins don't let him do what Jones did for all those years: trying to play through injuries, he only hurt himself and the team more.
Jair Jurrjens (inflamed knee, ERD TBD)
The Kokomo Tribune doesn't often break baseball news, but it did this week. The Braves scratched Jurrjens yesterday due to soreness in his knee. Luckily, Kokomo native Brandon Beachy was summoned to Atlanta as an emergency starter over the weekend. It turns out Jurrjens twisted his knee during a side session and then had some swelling on Saturday. That sounds like a meniscus problem, which could be a real problem for the Braves. If surgery is needed, Jurrjens could miss four to six weeks, time that might fall in the midst of the postseason, shortening the Braves' potential rotation dangerously. Then again, without Jurrjens, the Braves might not even make it to October and the surgery could happen then. The medical staff will work hard on Jurrjens over the next five days. If they can get him to the point where he can pitch, they could shift the rotation to get him in. This is going to be a very tough problem, one of pain tolerance and maintenance.
Bobby Jenks (inflamed forearm, ERD 10/4)
Gordon Beckham (bruised hand, ERD 10/4)
The White Sox are acknowledging that all their struggles and expenses were for naught in 2010. With that, the shutdowns start. The medical staff has been working hard to keep Jenks going, and has been largely successful. In fact, keeping him and other players off the DL might have the Sox back in position for the Dick Martin Award. (By the way, I'm looking for a corporate sponsor for the award this year. E-mail me if interested.) Now, Jenks could be shut down as the forearm issue already has him very questionable for the weekend. This isn't so much tossing up their hands as it is realizing that time and rest are likely to do as much for Jenks as the long hours of treatment. Jenks is thought by some to be a non-tender candidate in the upcoming offseason. The Sox may also shut down Beckham, who still has some soreness in his hand. Trying to push through it is again of no real value and with Beckham putting his season on something of an upswing in the second half, the Sox might just close the books on this disappointing campaign for him.
Josh Hamilton (bruised ribs, ERD 9/27)
Hamilton was in California visiting with Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist. Yes, back. That's a bit worrisome given the problem had been ribs, which are problematic, slow-healing and painful, but much less so than a back injury. Watkins has a long history with baseball players, so this is taking things right to the top, though the move does have some curiosities. Watkins has been focused on trunk stabilization in his work recently, so there could be an application right there. No one seems to think this changes the prognosis for Hamilton, but that the lingering problem was worth having one of the world's leading experts take a look and offer advice. We'll see if the Rangers add any information after his visit. For now, that ERD is a best guess as the team hopes to get him a few at-bats before the playoffs.
Jake Arrieta (inflamed elbow, ERD 10/4)
Arrieta was scheduled for surgery on Wednesday with the Orioles team ortho, but that's on hold now. Arrieta is heading west to see Dr. Lewis Yocum. Word is that Arrieta is worried that removing the spur might make it more likely that he would have to have Tommy John surgery. There have been situations like this, though having a cause and effect is a bit spurious, no pun intended. Joe Nathan and A.J. Burnett were two well-known pitchers that had bone spurs removed from their elbow only to end up back on a surgeon's table shortly after. The spur can act as something of a "platform" for the ligament, but the friction can be more of a problem depending on the location and structure. The second opinion by Yocum will come this week, but either way, Arrieta is done for now and likely to be ready for spring training.
Quick Cuts: Lots of rumors that Yu Darvish will be posted. Expect his posting to exceed that of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Seattle, Washington, and Oakland are said to be very high on him. ... Nick Swisher is back in the Yankees' outfield and should be fine for the playoffs. ... Felipe Paulino will make one more start this season for the Astros. He's been out with tendonitis in his shoulder. ... Coco Crisp admits he's done for the season after breaking his finger. ... Michael Bourn is out with a mild oblique strain. No word on when or even if he'll be back in the Astros lineup. ... Due to some travel over the next few days, I won't be back until Friday. In the meantime, get... that...