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September 18, 2008

Under The Knife

Down to the Wire

by Will Carroll

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Ben Sheets (5 DXL)
Yovani Gallardo (150 DXL)
David Riske (10 DXL)

About halfway into the e-mail barrage that happened last night, reader Bobby Mueller fired this one off to me: "I'm guessing you're getting flooded with questions about Sheets. I don't have a question, I just thought I'd mention that anyone who has Sheets on a fantasy team and is freaking out about this should be reminded that we (I have him on two teams myself) got 196 innings with a 2.98 ERA and 13 wins from Sheets this year-which is much more than we could have hoped for." That's small comfort for the Brewers, though maybe last night's win will help. Sheets left after two innings with forearm tightness, a worrisome diagnosis. This could be anything from cramps, to a flexor tendon problem, and everything in between, but a post-game revelation that he's been playing with pain for nearly a month is not a good sign, and neither is the "cutting sensation" that Sheets described. It's unclear if this is related in any way to his groin strain, or if that was just a cover for the elbow injury, but Sheets isn't ruling out a quick return, saying it's been "up and down" throughout the period he's been playing through it. The timing couldn't be worse for the Brewers, who need Sheets to make his next three scheduled starts, or for Sheets, who's on the verge of free agency. This could force the team to move up the return of Gallardo, though he will be working out of the bullpen; after a simulated game on Tuesday, Gallardo could join the team rather than throwing another that had been scheduled for Friday. Gallardo will be more of a replacement for Riske, who is schedule for elbow surgery to remove bone chips.

Hanley Ramirez (3 DXL)
Fantasy players gasped as Ramirez left Wednesday's game with a shoulder problem. The danger is that the Marlins, now out of the playoff race for all intents and purposes, will shut Ramirez down, though he is hoping he won't miss any time. According to Ramirez, the strain happened on a diving play on defene, and then became increasingly sore until he was removed. It couldn't have been that bad, since Ramirez hit a home run both before and after that defensive play, and the second might have gone further than the first. Ramirez is well acquainted with shoulder problems, coming back this season after off-season surgery on the opposite joint. It's impossible to get a read on how this will play out; certainly the calendar and the team's record will play into this, but overall it's not a huge worry.

Carl Crawford (50 DXL)
Shawn Riggans (20 DXL)
Troy Percival (3 DXL)

Word came from sources in Tampa Bay that Crawford won't make it back for the final series as planned. At least, he won't be hitting at that point; there's a question as to whether or not Crawford would be valuable enough as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement to be on the playoff roster, for which that last series would serve as an audition to make sure he can play through any lingering effects from the injury on that level. (I don't think anyone has any real doubts about Crawford's ability, least of all Joe Maddon and the Rays' front office.) Crawford could be sent to the instructional league for some at-bats if he were cleared, but there are a lot of questions about those last few spots on the Rays' roster. With B.J. Upton still out and Crawford in question, multi-position players like Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar, and Eric Hinske become even more valuable. The Rays will also be without Riggans for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, since he had to have surgery to remove an infected bursa sac in his knee. It's the same procedure undergone by Peyton Manning, and Riggans has a similar four- to six-week recovery period that won't have him ready even for late October.

Things aren't looking clearer in the pen either. One doctor I spoke to joked that Percival "has had enough epidurals so that he could give birth comfortably now." Percival's back problems aren't a laughing matter to him or to the Rays, however, as they try to hold on to the AL East and set up their bullpen for the playoffs. Another epidural this week is really about the last one he could safely have this season according to an unofficial count. The Rays have options here, but if they're going to shorten the pen for the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how they construct it out of a few starters who may be pushed back, some specialists, and guys like David Price-who may be better than the other options.

Carlos Quentin (30 DXL)
Just nine days since having an ORIF (open reduction, internal fixation) procedure-one you and I would call having a screw inserted in the wrist-Quentin had his cast taken off. That's a pretty good sign, but it's still quite a ways from being able to swing a bat in anger. The White Sox will be watching closely as Herm Schneider works his rehab magic. While this is a good first step, it's still unlikely that Quentin will be ready for the Division Series, and even the LCS will be a challenge. Ozzie Guillen is using the last few weeks of the season as something of a tryout for Quentin's roster spot, costing Nick Swisher some playing time.

Nomar Garciaparra (15 DXL)
People don't speak softly about Larry Bowa; they either love him or hate him. I won't say which side I heard from, but there are some that blame Bowa for Garciaparra's injury last night. I haven't seen the play so I can't vouch for this, but evidently Bowa put a very late stop sign up for Garciaparra, who tried to pull up too quickly and ended up having his left knee collapse. It's the same knee that he hurt back in late July, so if he's re-injured the MCL that he'd previously sprained, he could be out for the rest of the regular season. He can play with it braced, but it will certainly make things tougher for him in the field. With Rafael Furcal on the way back, Garciaparra could find himself left off of the playoff roster altogether.

Chris Carpenter (20 DXL)
Rick Ankiel (15 DXL)

The Cardinals are sending Carpenter out for more tests on his shoulder, and with more information available now, it's looking more like I've been on the right track with my speculative diagnosis of plexitis. Despite knowing what the problem is (assuming that this diagnosis is correct), there's not much that the team can do. It's normally treated very conservatively, which bodes well for his return in 2009. The trouble is that plexitis is actually more of a symptom than a proximate cause. If it's a problem like double crush syndrome, it could lead to further issues with his cervical spine that could be corrected or reduced. At this point, the Cards are waiting for tests, just like the rest of us, but they aren't willing to speculate publicly. The Cards will also be without Ankiel for the rest of the season. He was scheduled to have surgery on his sports hernia Wednesday, and most come back from this surgery without any trouble, so Ankiel should be a solid pickup for next year if you liked what he did this season-and what's not to like about 25 home runs?

Quick Cuts: Late word is that Howie Kendrick has had a setback with his hamstring and may not return until the last week of the season. ... Chone Figgins has been sent for imaging after his arm "stiffened up" in the field. It's the same arm that was hit by a pitch last week. ... Michael Young left Wednesday's game after re-injuring his fractured finger. This could end his season. ... Milton Bradley was held out on Wednesday with wrist soreness, but the Rangers are hoping to find him the at-bats he needs to qualify for a batting title. ... Edwin Encarnacion was a late scratch from the Reds lineup due to a wrist injury. It's not considered serious, kind of like the Reds offense. ... The Nats have shut down Austin Kearns, Jesus Flores, and Dmitri Young. When was Young even ever started back up? ... Jarrod Washburn is done for the season after straining his abs. Washburn has abs? ... When Argenis Reyes played second alongside Jose Reyes, did that make the first same-name keystone in history? I doubt it, but I couldn't find one. Who's got it?

19 comments have been left for this article.

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