September 10, 2008
Under The Knife
Shutting Down and Putting Up
Billy Wagner (20 DXL)
It wasn't so much a surprise that Wagner had a setback as it was how much of a setback it was. He had a similar issue back in mid-August when his elbow swelled up whenever he went full out with his pitches. That's how this happened, but no one seems to understand how he went from claiming to have "no problem" with his UCL, to Tommy John surgery during the course of a normal rehab. It's my understanding that the imaging that showed the strained tendon did not show the damage to the UCL. (Also, it's important to note that some sources are calling this an MCL sprain. The MCL, or medial collateral ligament of the elbow, is more commonly called the ulnar collateral ligament to avoid confusion with the knee's MCL.) Wagner's agent, Bean Stringfellow, was quoted as saying that he was surprised the rehab would take three weeks; a UCL tear would certainly involve more time and precaution. If as far back as August 5 the Mets were saying that there was no issue with the elbow, what happened here? Did doctors-multiple doctors-miss the diagnosis, or did they misread the images? Did Wagner's UCL just snap? (That's an uncommon occurrence.) If anyone knows, they're not talking, and Wagner is headed for surgery and is done not only for this season, but likely much of 2009 as well.
Albert Pujols (0 DXL)
Pujols might have Tommy John surgery. That's a known. It's the same known that's been in play since what, 2004? The Cardinals made a smart, prescient move by shifting him to first base to protect that arm, and to protect the value of the bat that he holds with that arm. It's worked for several years now, and it's hard to say that it's not working now; he's hitting around .360 with no loss of power and a career-high EqA for a guy whose entire career has been a high. (As I type this, he's just hit a three-run bomb off of Ryan Dempster.) In addition to the elbow, Pujols has foot, back, leg, and knee issues of varying degrees, and he's still put up the numbers year after year. I may be being facetious when I ask 'what might this guy do when he's healthy?,' but it's also the scary truth. While it seems that we live in a world of uncertainty, Pujols is the one near-certainty. It's as if Usain Bolt has been running with a rock in his shoe all this time, Lance Armstrong was riding with nine gears instead of ten, and Mike Tyson was sane; what happens if "all-time great" wasn't their best possible outcome? Just as a pitcher who has bad mechanics and good results is hard to mess with, Pujols' swing is along the same lines, which is why the Cards are saying not so fast to Pujols shutting it down, having the surgery, and potentially missing a month or so next season. To be continued, as they say.
B.J. Upton (5 DXL)
Evan Longoria (30 DXL)
The Rays get one back and lose another all at once. While Longoria was activated and is available to play in the field, he's still not cleared to hit, forcing the team to throw together an odd lineup that looked more like what I would expect to see at Triple-A Durham. Dan Johnson, a guy we laughed about playing at third base when David Price came through Indy a few weeks ago, was slated to start in left, but ended up as a pinch-hit hero when he showed up to the park late and out-clutched David Ortiz. Longoria is due to take more batting practice and be cleared for full activity very soon, but that's the same thing I was saying last weekend. The path is clearer for Upton, as he strained a quad when he hurt himself running out a routine grounder. He's expected back by the weekend, likely Friday, but adding a jumpy quad to a jittery shoulder might add stress to Joe Maddon's lineup as they head down the stretch.
Carlos Quentin (30 DXL)
Paul Konerko (5 DXL)
Quentin underwent a procedure on his wrist called an open reduction with internal fixation, or ORIF. That procedure, which put the broken bone back in place and set it there with a small screw, went well, and it's possible but not probable that he could return for the playoffs. If he does, Quentin and the Sox will have to thank skateboarders all over the world; there have been great advances in the treatment of broken wrists over the past decade, due in part to the increase of such injuries that one physical therapist credits to kids trying to replicate the moves of Tony Hawk. The Sox also dodged a bullet with Konerko's knee injury. He came out of Tuesday's game after twisting it, but it looks like just a mild sprain of his MCL that will require a couple of days off to reduce the pain and swelling. Sources indicate he could be back in the heart of the Sox lineup by the weekend.
Howie Kendrick (20 DXL)
I haven't said much about Kendrick since he went back on the DL at the end of August, and I'm not alone. Kendrick hasn't had an update on Rotowire since August 29, or on Rotoworld since September 5, when Mike Scioscia said that Kendrick was making progress. We can see how useful that tidbit of information was, since Kendrick is still out. There's no real change as the Angels second baseman rehabs what is becoming a chronic hamstring issue, and until he's ready, the Angels can afford to be conservative with him now that they have the division wrapped up. He is expected back for the playoffs, though I can't give a solid return date. His DXL has him returning sometime next week, but that looks iffy. There's no new information here, but perhaps this will keep some readers from asking every day. I am watching, and when I have something, I'll let you know.
Kazuo Matsui (30 DXL)
Someone asked me if Matsui was the symbol of the Astros year. I think they were looking for some sort of humorous riff off of his early-season anal issues, but with the Astros somehow matching their mid-season delusions with actual wins, I can't think of how an injury-prone speedster who's hit better than expected out of Coors could be a symbol. The contributions from guys like Darin Erstad and Reggie Abercrombie would be a better symbol, but I'll leave that one to the analysts. Matsui's still not able to play, with Cecil Cooper's pre-game comment that he needed Matsui to be back at 90 percent before he'd put him in the lineup as our first solid indication of where Matsui is physically. He's very literally day-to-day as the Astros medical staff tries to get him back to help with the wild-card push.
Takashi Saito (60 DXL)
The Dodgers should have Saito back this weekend. It's something of a surprise, given how grim things looked back in July, but it appears that the Dodgers medical staff was exactly right in shutting him down for six weeks. His simulated game went well and he'll have one more on Wednesday, and if all goes well there, he'll be activated this weekend. There's still some question on where he'll slot back in. He won't be the full-time closer since he won't be available on back-to-back days, but it wouldn't surprise anyone if he moved into something of a timeshare with Jonathon Broxton by the end of the season. Adding an extra arm to the Dodgers surge is a huge plus, not to mention that Saito will add a bit of wasabi to the Dodgers' secret sauce.
Quick Cuts: Brandon Phillips broke his right index finger on a bunt attempt in last night's extra-inning win over the Brewers, but he stayed in the game. He's likely done for the season, though he's going to be re-examined Wednesday. ... Absolutely brilliant analysis from Josh Kalk. You'd think every team would have someone doing this, but they don't. Yet. ... Also brilliant is is Tom Verducci's latest. ... Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to throw on Wednesday ahead of a Saturday start. He'll have Sean Marshall shadowing him, or taking the start if he's unable to go. ... John Smoltz is ahead of schedule in his rehab and is likely to sign an incentive-laden deal with the Braves soon. He's not ruling out a return to starting. ... Anibal Sanchez's return from shoulder surgery has gone well, but he's hit a fatigue point. The Marlins are talking about shutting him down, which would be the smart play. ... Emmanuel Burris, a shortstop who most people remember as Webster, is out for the season after straining his oblique. ... Jack Wilson has a broken index finger and will miss the rest of the year. ... Juan Salas is doing well after suffering an epileptic seizure in Boston earlier this week. ... Troy Glaus is having some shoulder issues, and he could follow Albert Pujols to the shelf if the Cards start shutting things down. ... Dear Troy Percival: many old people live in the Tampa Bay area, and my heart ain't so good either. Please cut it out. Your pal, Will.