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May 19, 2009

Under The Knife

Breaking Down

by Will Carroll

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Carlos Delgado (80 DXL)
When Alex Gordon found that he had a labral tear in his hip, it was almost a copy/paste from Alex Rodriguez. Aside from the etiology, which in Gordon's case is known and in Rodriguez's is publicly unknown, they were nearly identical. With Delgado, we can do almost the same thing, but we have to look to someone else for the comparison, in this case Mike Lowell. Both wore down with bone spurs in their hips, leading to the labral tear, and ended up at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, though with different surgeons. Lowell had the more 'complete' surgery as Chase Utley did, and a longer rehab, while it looks as if the Mets are heading for the hybrid surgery performed on the two Alexes (Alexii?). The focus will be on getting the bone spurs out and trying to minimize the fix to keep the rehab in that two-month range. I'm still not quite convinced that it's possible, and while I'm not questioning the Mets' doctors, I'm curious why they decided not to consult Dr. Marc Phillipon after his successes with the procedure, or even Brian Kelly, who performed Lowell and Utley's procedures. My guess is that we'll see a more extensive fix than the hybrid, and that Delgado will be out until well into August, hence that big DXL number.

Rickie Weeks (130 DXL)
It was the wrists that made Weeks such a great prospect that may end up ending his career. Scouts talked about his quick wrists, but on the inside, their tendons and ligaments simply couldn't handle the kind of force they generated. The latest injury for him is a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, the same type of injury that David Ortiz and Nick Johnson dealt with last season, and the same as what he had in his right wrist in 2006. It's an unprecedented pairing, according to most sources. I'm told that this one is much closer to a rupture than Ortiz's, necessitating surgery that will end his season. The injury occurred without any previous warning, and takes him out of a season where it appeared everything was finally coming together for him, working under the close mentorship of Willie Randolph. The questions now become, can he come back, and will he hold together at any point? Weeks' surgery has a six-month recovery period, though there often seems to be a lingering effect with wrist injuries, so he should be ready for spring training next year. As to whether he can ever hold together, there's just no evidence to suggest that, even as he enters what should be his peak seasons, he can stay healthy. It might be the one skill he doesn't possess.

Joey Votto (3 DXL)
The news on Votto is getting even weirder. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but being admitted to the Scripps Clinic is not a good sign. The acute symptoms continue to be in effect and the team and doctors are running tests. He's scheduled to be back in Cincinnati on Tuesday to meet with team doctors, in the hope of figuring out what's going on. Most signs continue to point to some sort of post-flu complication, such as an inner ear problem, though the Reds admit that they're not sure when Votto will be back in the lineup. It's impossible to say how much or even if he'll miss time, but it's clear that the issues are affecting him on the field.

Jeremy Bonderman (60 DXL)
There hasn't been a lot of news on Bonderman, to the frustration of the many Tigers fans who e-mail me asking for updates. The fact is that most of the rehab process is boring and procedural, going from one step to the next. It's a case where no news truly is good news, since if I'm reporting on it, it likely means that there has been a setback. Bonderman's rehab has gone more slowly than many—including myself—thought it would, but the team is being cautious and seems pleased with the progress made so far. Bonderman's first rehab start went long—94 pitches was more than everyone had been expecting, aside from the Tigers apparently—and he looked good aside from his velocity, which was down from his normal 92 at around 89 mph. That's not a significant difference, but Kevin Goldstein often reminds us that right-handers can't live below 90 and succeed unless they're Greg Maddux, and even Maddux was above that velocity until the end of his career. Bonderman's next start will be Wednesday in Toledo. The velocity will be the key, with some speculation that Bonderman might return to the pen for a time if he needs to build up more.

Frank Francisco (15 DXL)
Retroactive moves make it hard to have a mental time line. When a player goes on the DL, most people picture that he's shut down and stuck in the training room for hours on end, covered with ice packs and electrodes. For the Rangers' closer, though, the delay in putting him on the DL means that he's already throwing and prepping for his return. He began on Monday with a bullpen session that will lead to a simulated game on Wednesday. If all goes well with that and he recovers normally, he'll be back in the pen on Friday, though not necessarily closing out of the gate. In the meantime, skipper Ron Washington is likely to mix in C.J. Wilson and even Eddie Guardado, especially if save situations come up on back-to-back days.

Vladimir Guerrero (40 DXL)
It's been a while since we heard from Vladi and his torn pectoral muscle. (Remember, while you might think 'chest' after hearing pectoral, this tear is near the shoulder and affects his throwing more than his hitting.) It's healed up enough to let him swing a bat and start thinking about a minor league rehab stint. He'll head out, likely to the Cal League, where he can terrorize some young High-A starters for a few games, and he could be back shortly after that. What he won't do is throw, either on the rehab assignment or in the major leagues, at least for a while, because Guerrero is indefinitely limited to DHing; some team sources say they're not sure if he'll be able to play the field at all this season. If he does get out there, his arm won't be the weapon it once was, and he'll need to be spotted to keep his back and legs healthy. This isn't the Vlad we remember, but it's hard to call his Angels tenure a bad signing in any way.

Adam Jones (3 DXL)
Cesar Izturis (1 DXL)

The Orioles have some talent, but while they're waiting on God... err, Matt Wieters... to show up, they need to keep what they have on the field. The team is dealing with a few leg injuries right now, which is bad for a team predicated on speed and defense. Two of their best—or at least speediest—are dealing with issues that can affect their speed. The team is being cautious in bringing Jones back, knowing that as a young player his legs are an important asset for his long-term value; a team source compared Jones to Carl Crawford, which makes sense to me. The injury is not serious, but it does show how context affects the treatment of players. Remember, the training room is not where you go to be treated equally. The team is a bit less cautious with Cesar Izturis, hoping to get him back out on the field to keep his value up despite a mild groin strain. Both players should be back in action today, though they'll be running less over the next few days.

Brett Gardner (2 DXL)
A bruised rotator cuff is one of those injuries that make me step back and take a second look. The mechanism of injury on something odd like this is always interesting. I still can't tell from the available replays whether his arm was pulled back, or whether it was simply landed on in his dust-up at home plate with Joe Mauer. Either way, the injury isn't as serious as it sounds, leading me to believe it's a simple impact injury rather than a more serious structural issue. In the meantime, Gardner will miss a few days as they let the pain and swelling fade away, though he'd be available in an emergency.

Casey Blake (1 DXL)
Everything seems to be going right for the Dodgers right now, even when it comes to injuries. Blake injured his hamstring while running over the weekend and missed Monday's game, spending time in the training room instead of at third base. He did warm up with the team, but they were able to give him the night off to make sure he didn't re-injure the leg. He could be back as early as today, though it's likely that Joe Torre will make decisions on a day-to-day basis over the next few. When Juan Pierre has a 1000+ OPS, a team knows they're getting their share of lucky breaks and then some.

Quick Cuts: Things aren't getting better for Jose Reyes. The lower leg problem is more than just a calf strain, but there's still no decision on whether he'll go to the DL. ... David Ortiz is expected back in the lineup today, with Kevin Youkilis and Mark Kotsay rejoining the team in the next few days. ... Hiroki Kuroda threw a simulated game and could be back sometime next week for the Dodgers. ... Tom Glavine's simulated game went well and he'll head out for a rehab start or two. Sources tell me that if Glavine can't help the Braves, he'll retire and Tommy Hanson will get the call. ... Nyjer Morgan is expected back in the lineup soon after missing time with a leg injury. ... Billy Wagner is back in Florida throwing, and could be back before the end of the season for the Mets. While they're not expecting anything from Wagner, he would be a nice bonus and could end up "doing what [the Mets] thought J.J. Putz would be doing." ... Alex Cora is out for six weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb. A decision on surgery has not yet been made. ... Rick Ankiel is expected to come off of the DL when eligible on Wednesday. ... Seriously.

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