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September 19, 2011

Collateral Damage

Weakened Swings and Injured Twins

by Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh

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Adrian Gonzalez, BOS (Right shoulder weakness) [AGL: 5 (TBD DL), ATD: +.180 (TBD DL)] (Explanation)
Gonzalez’s power numbers have dropped in the second half of the year, and it looks like we finally have an explanation. On top of poor pitch selection, Gonzalez is battling weakness in his right shoulder that he admits may be costing him opposite field power. He has not been taking batting practice on the field for over a month now as he’s tried to strengthen his shoulder for the stretch drive.

While it’s certainly not uncommon for players to suffer fatigue or weakness at this time of year, people are concerned because of Gonzalez’s injury history, which could make his case similar to Joe Mauer’s fatigue following off-season knee surgery. Gonzalez may not have been able to rehab the shoulder fully, and he could have hit the proverbial wall.

Shoulder injuries in pitchers cost them pitch velocity, and front shoulder injuries in hitters cost them bat velocity. Driving the ball to the opposite field relies more on shoulder and upper extremity strength than pulling the ball does. As a result, Gonzalez’ ability to hit the other way with power is compromised. Gonzalez is not likely to miss any time, but he is going to continue his regimen down the stretch.

Justin Morneau, MIN (Concussion) [AGL: 3 (29 DL), ATD: -.002 (-.010 DL)]
Morneau has been shut down for the rest of the season due to lingering concussion symptoms, the second consecutive season in which this has happened. As we’ve discussed previously, the latest concussion is more concerning due to the relative lack of force required to create his symptoms than the overall number of concussions he’s suffered. Back on August 28th, Morneau dove for a ball while fielding at first base, which certainly involved less force than his concussion last year, when he was kneed in the head on the base paths, and also less force than when he was beaned back in 2005.

The future is uncertain for Morneau. If he is able to return to baseball, questions remain about his ability to play first base, given that the relatively simple play of diving for a ball caused his latest concussion. He could permanently move to DH, but that could impact any potential days where Joe Mauer would get a respite from playing behind the plate.

Regardless, Morneau needs to get healthy. In addition to the concussion, he is also suffering from a cyst in his left knee that has been bothering him for the past year or so, as well as a bone spur in his right foot. He is scheduled for surgery on Monday and will begin his recovery shortly thereafter. The knee and foot should heal within a month or two, but of course there is no definitive timeline for the concussion.

Joe Mauer, MIN (Pneumonia) [AGL: 5 (TBD DL), ATD: -.158 (TBD DL)]
Adding to the injury woes of the Twins, Mauer developed a case of pneumonia and will miss two weeks, essentially ending his season. Pneumonia can be viral, bacteriological, or fungal in nature and can cause productive coughs with phlegm, fevers, chills, or trouble breathing. Most of the time, people start feeling better within three to five days, but more severe cases can last for weeks. Fatigue can linger even longer than that. Treatment depends on the infectious agent and overall health of the person.

 Along with Morneau, Mauer has not been able to shake the injury bug in 2011, already missing over 75 days this year. The grumblings to move him out from behind the plate increased after his lower extremity fatigue caused him to miss 65 days earlier in the year. If Mauer returns this year, it will only be for a few games, but he should be ready for a hopefully injury-free 2012.

Chone Figgins, SEA (Hip flexor strain) [AGL: 2 (25 DL), ATD: -.027 (+.053 DL)]
When you haven’t played since being activated from the disabled list two weeks ago, it’s safe to assume either that management is not pleased or the injury is not fully healed (or both). After he ran the bases and took batting practice on Friday, it was determined that Figgins just would not be ready to play. His hip continues to be sore from the strained hip flexor he suffered in early August, which—along with groin injuries—can be difficult to get over 100 percent mid-season.

In truly chronic situations—several months, which we’re coming close to—the hip flexor may not be the root cause of the injury but may be indicative of a cartilage tear or impingement inside the hip joint. In order to have this diagnosed, Figgins would need to undergo an MR arthrogram, in which dye is injected into the joint. This is jumping a few steps ahead, and we are still several weeks away from that possibility, since Figgins will now rehab without any pressure to return.

James Darnell, SDN (Left shoulder surgery—dislocation) [AGL: TBD (126 DL), ATD: TBD (TBD DL)]
Darnell partially dislocated his shoulder on Friday night while diving for a ball and injured the ligaments and capsule in the shoulder. Darnell felt the shoulder pop out and pop back in, certainly a disturbing feeling. In the shoulders, the glenohumeral ligaments are not as distinct as in other parts of the body, so the interactions between each of them are more complicated. Darnell will undergo surgery similar to Hanley Ramirez’s to repair the ligaments and capsule and properly stabilize the shoulder. He should be ready for spring training.

Daniel Cortes, SEA (Broken right hand) [AGL: 5 (53 DL), ATD: -.055 (-.002 DL)]
Cortes suffered a non-displaced fracture of the third metacarpal in an off-field incident that the Mariners refuse to go into any further. The fracture will not require surgery but will end his season. Cortes was involved in other off-field incidents early in his professional career, including one in which he was stabbed eight times and his friend tragically died while they were exiting a bowling alley in 2005.

Even though he was deemed blameless, people will unfairly speculate until the someone provides a further explanation. In terms of the fracture itself, fractures of the third metacarpal tend to heal well, especially when they’re non-displaced. Cortes should be ready for spring training without any complications.

Cody Ross, SFN (Right hamstring strain) [AGL: 4 (27 DL), ATD: -.018 (-.005 DL)]
After straining his right hamstring on Friday, Ross feared that he may have been finished for the 2011 season. An MRI confirmed the right hamstring strain, but less than 24 hours later, Ross was barely limping in the clubhouse. Time may still run out for Ross in 2011, but considering his quick improvement, there remains a good chance that he will be back before the end of the season.

Flesh Wounds: In another bizarre non-baseball-related injury, Brett Cecil will miss at least one start after lacerating his finger cleaning a blender in the visitor’s clubhouse… Jerry Hairston, Jr. has been out for a few days after having an epidural injection for his neck/upper back stiffness from a bulging disc. If this does not eliminate his pain, he may face surgery... Jason Repko may have a concussion after being beaned by Justin Masterson. A CT scan was negative for fractures or bleeds, but CT scans cannot rule out concussions. Repko will be reevaluated over the next few days and will follow the concussion protocols… Carlos Guillen left Sunday’s game with a right calf strain. Officially day-to-day, there is a possibility that he is out for the rest of the season… David Price left yesterday’s game after taking a line drive to the upper part of his right chest. It was more precautionary than anything else, and he should be ready down the stretch for the Rays… Jose Tabata won’t return in 2011, since his fractured left hand has not responded as well as he and the Pirates had hoped… Tsuyoshi Nishioka also is done for the year, since his strained oblique has not healed quickly… Teammate Jason Kubel will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the remainder of the year after aggravating his left mid-foot sprain on Friday… Tony Gwynn Jr. also will be limited to pinch-hitting duties down the stretch after suffering a bruised left rotator cuff while sliding… Yunel Escobar continues to be limited by a swollen left elbow after being hit by a pitch last week. Repeated x-rays have shown no fracture, but until a CT scan is performed, we won’t believe him to be absent of fractures, since the swelling should have improved by this point... Jonathan Broxton underwent surgery to remove a bone spur and loose bodies in his elbow. He should be back in time for spring training… An MRI on Adam Jonesthumb confirmed that it was only a sprain. He may return soon and play through the discomfort for the rest of the year, but there is little incentive to do so… Jed Lowrie is getting close to returning after the cortisone injection on Tuesday decreased the inflammation in his left shoulder… Kevin Youkilis may return in a few days, but there is no definitive timetable. The pain from the sports hernia and hip bursitis is continuing to limit him, and the Red Sox and Youkilis hope that a few days off now will allow him to play down the stretch… Ryan Howard will likely miss time over the next several days in order to rest his injured big toe and ankle now that the Phillies have clinched.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here
Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Shoulder,  Concussion,  Year Of The Injury

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The Prospectus Hit Lis... (09/19)
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