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June 17, 2009

Under The Knife

Our Better Angels?

by Will Carroll

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Torii Hunter (3 DXL)
The brick and chain fence in San Francisco helps make that park one of the most scenic in the game, but I'm always scared of what might happen there if someone does what Hunter did; luckily for Hunter, he ran into the padded portion of the outfield wall instead of the brick. He still came away the loser, chalking up another win for walls everywhere. In the process, Hunter bruised his ribs, which is much less than what it looked to be when he was initially down. The Twitstream went ballistic just after the incident Monday night in the same way that it did when Rick Ankiel took a header into the wall, but Hunter will be fine, just sore for a couple of days. The Angels anticipate that he'll be back Friday.

Grady Sizemore (25 DXL)
Many expected the worst, especially after a bit of an information gap following Sizemore's Monday MRI on his problematic elbow. Then, on Tuesday night, the team announced that Sizemore would not need any surgical procedure on his elbow, and that he would begin hitting soon, followed shortly by throwing. It's the last part that's key, giving us the best indication that the olecranon bursa is no longer inflamed, and that the medical staff believes that they're beyond the recurrence stage. Bursitis is a painful condition, but once corrected it tends not to recur. It's just the "getting ahead of it" that often takes something like a DL stint or even minor surgery to help. Sizemore should be back around the end of the month, depending on how much preparation time he'll need for his swing. It will also depend on the team's roster situation, since the DH slot is plugged up with Travis Hafner showing some power.

Denard Span (15 DXL)
The Twins finally have an explanation for the dizziness afflicting Span. The answer was the simplest-an inner ear viral infection that's causing problems with the structures that help all of us have balance. I won't bore you (or confuse myself) with the details of how it works, or what structures are actually involved. Instead, we can all just note that this should clear up on its own in a few days, given that Span is a normal man in good condition and presumably someone with a normal immune system. The team is putting him on the DL with a retroactive move, but he could be on a rehab assignment as soon as the weekend.

Kelvim Escobar (21 DXL)
Ervin Santana (15 DXL)

The Angels of 2009 will be remembered for their pitching woes, no doubt about it. Ned Bergert and his staff have had their hands full since day one of the season with rehabbing pitchers. Even the depth they have has been tested, going to 12 starting pitchers already this season. It's not so much a surprise with Escobar, who despite the nice spin was never expected to do much by anyone who knew what was going on in his arm. The shoulder is already fatigued and the Angels pushed him to the DL to open up the roster spot. While they're not saying it out loud, the team is considering moving Escobar to the bullpen, though sources say that the type of fatigue he's showing now doesn't augur well for his ability to stay solid in the pen. The bigger issue for the Angels in both the short and long term is Santana; having missed the start of the season with an elbow problem, now he's dealing with forearm pain. Are the two directly related? Not in the strictest sence, but you'd have a hard time convincing me that this isn't a kinetic chain issue, where the weakest link can move from spot to spot. The schedule gives the Angels some time to watch and work on Santana, but it looks as if he'll need a trip to the DL.

Edinson Volquez (30 DXL)
Joey Votto (30 DXL)

With Votto back with the team and taking batting practice, Dusty Baker wasn't exactly giving away state secrets when he said Votto would be back soon. The question is more where his rehab stint will take place than when; the latter part is essentially already decided, as it'll be next week. The Reds have two affiliates close to Cincinnati, and will likely use the schedule to decide the 'where' part, though the decision could be telling on where the organization thinks Votto is. The Reds should also be getting Volquez back in the near future. He's throwing long toss every other day, and they think they'll have him on a mound sometime next week. He should be back just before the All-Star Game given this schedule.

Jed Lowrie (50 DXL)
John Smoltz (80 DXL)

Lowrie is getting closer to his return, which has to make Julio Lugo a bit nervous, as he will be heading down to the Ft. Myers complex to play a couple of games in a controlled situation before heading up to Pawtucket for "about a week" of games, according to Terry Francona. There should be no issues with Lowrie's wrist at bat or in the field, so this is more about getting him into game shape and finding his swing than any injury concern. The timeframe puts him back just before July 1. The Sox also will get Smoltz into their rotation starting next week. He'll be pitching against the Nationals, which can be safely called a "soft landing." The Sox seem inclined to keep Brad Penny in the rotation, and may go with a temporary six-man rotation. There's likely to be some juggling, and some have suggested that the team may shorten the pen, knowing they'll have at least two rested starters available on any given day for an emergency appearance.

Michael Ynoa (NA)
I mix up "strain" and "sprain" all the time, so I don't knock anyone who makes the mistake. Even the A's were doing it, calling Michael Ynoa's injury a "strain," but discussing swelling in and around the ligament. I was able to confirm with a team source that it is the ligament that's the problem, making this a sprain. The A's phenom will be shut down for a month, and while no one seems to expect that this will be a significant problem, it does raise questions. In the worst possible case, he could need Tommy John surgery, but in that scenario he'd be 18 when he comes back, and essentially in the same situation as the Angels found themselves in after drafting Nick Adenhart. Adenhart's tragic passing aside, picking him worked out pretty well for the Angels, so I'm not too worried with this being the worst possible case for Ynoa. (Also, since he's nowhere close to the majors, Ynoa doesn't get a DXL estimate.) It does raise an interesting question: How much do Dominican teenagers pitch? Is this an issue of previous workload, as we might see with an American teenager playing high school and then Legion ball, or is it the opposite, where the increase in workload as a pro taxed him? (Where's Kiley McDaniel when you need him?)

Quick Cuts: Jake Westbrook's final rehab start was pushed back due to soreness (and a roster crunch in Cleveland). ... Surgery is back as an option for fixing Carlos Guillen's shoulder, according to his agent. ... Frank Francisco could be back as early as Friday. He'll make a rehab appearance on Thursday, likely across town in Frisco. ... Brad Lidge could be back as early as next week. His knee is making "nice progress" (and after Ryan Madson blew a save. Coincidence?). ... Erik Bedard will throw in the pen today. If it goes well, he'll start this weekend. ... Glen Perkins returned from the DL and threw a pretty solid, normal game for him against the Pirates. ... Jason Isringhausen will try and pitch again. He wouldn't need to have Tommy John surgery if he wasn't going to pitch. ... Geoff Blum heads to the DL with a hamstring strain, freeing roster space for Kaz Matsui's return. Mike Hampton also heads to the DL for the Astros with a groin strain and general Hamptonness.

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