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June 19, 2009

Under The Knife

Hitting the Wall

by Will Carroll

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Scott Kazmir (30 DXL)
Kazmir made it through his first rehab start and is heading to Triple-A for his next one. That's good news, but the more important things happened well away from the field. Kazmir made a trip to Birmingham and then to New York, in an attempt to fix his mechanics and get him back on track. With the leg healed, Kazmir visited ASMI, and I'm told by sources that it was a good session. Not only were they able to identify some things to work on (Kazmir had visited and been tested a few years back, when Rick Peterson took a group of Mets pitchers there), but they were also able to compare the results. Kazmir followed this up with a trip to New York, where he met up with Peterson to go over the results. The Rays are very involved in the process, with Andrew Friedman personally monitoring the situation. It might be a little awkward to credit the Mets and a lab for a comeback, but the Rays will gladly do so if Kazmir is able to come back effectively. That could happen as soon as next week.

Brandon Webb (90 DXL)
"Didn't feel good" doesn't provide us with a lot of information, but that was the word from Josh Byrnes after Webb's scheduled throwing session was cancelled. The fact is that Webb's shoulder is not recovering well between sessions and he's feeling fatigue and "tenderness" in the shoulder. One source tells me that it's difficult right now to tell the difference between Webb's shoulder problem and what he calls "broken confidence." He explained that pitchers, especially one's that have been healthy, can feel vulnerable and guarded after an injury. That's not to say that Webb's malingering in any way, but it is sort of a pitching corollary to the Iron Man's Dilemma. That's the rule by which most players who go on long streaks of health often descend quickly to a state of chronic injury once the streak is broken, much in the way we've seen with Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Cal Ripken. Webb's setback makes it difficult to get a read on when he might return, but one thing I can say with certainty is that it's not going to be soon.

Aramis Ramirez (60 DXL)
The way the Cubs are playing has Lou Piniella talking about "major changes," while the Cubs' ownership situation makes it harder to entertain those kinds of changes. One thing that would definitely help is getting Ramirez back into the lineup. His rehab from the dislocated shoulder is coming along and he'll begin taking batting practice next week. If that's the case and there are no setbacks, his likely timeline gets him back to Wrigley at or near the All-Star break. That puts him out almost eight weeks, which I had warned about when the injury occurred.

Raul Ibanez (15 DXL)
I'm about to speculate on Ibaņez, so be warned. He hit the DL with a groin strain, and in speaking with the media, he said that he'd had some problems with the groin since April. Groin strain... lingering symptoms... Phillies... yes, I'm wondering if this is the same type of hip injury that the Phillies have seen with Chase Utley and Brett Myers. It's more likely that it's a simple groin strain, but now that we have a new injury and surgical fix, this set of circumstances is going to raise some questions. I hope that's OK with Geoff Baker. If it is just the groin strain, he'll miss the minimum.

Roy Halladay (15 DXL)
Scott Downs (21 DXL)

The Jays are having a bad run with pitchers, but there are a few things to point out. The Rangers have more pitching injuries, both in days and in Injury Cost, yet they're contending. Also, the Jays have only had one position player on the DL all year, that being Michael Barrett, who at best is a backup catcher. It's an interesting dichotomy and one that points to the front office's willingness to take on risky pitchers. The only bad luck here is that it's happening in a stack rather than spreading out more evenly. Halladay's groin strain isn't going to help the team, but they're just being cautious by placing him on the DL. There is some irony in a team that plays on turf having a pitcher get turf toe on a grass field. That's the case for Downs. He sprained his toe running to first base and heads to the DL. It's also his push foot, and while turf toe isn't as bad for a pitcher-much of the push comes laterally, rather than from the toe-it's still a painful injury. Cito Gason's solution is somewhat extreme, but it's understandable. Expect Downs to be on the DL for more than the minimum. Gaston is expected to go with a committee at closer in the meantime.

Chris Young (21 DXL)
Geoff Young has some nice points on Young, but let's focus more on the facts. Young (Chris, not Geoff) has had some control issues recently, but he has been pitching through a shoulder problem, according to the team. The general rule is that the shoulder affects velocity while the elbow affects control, but that is a general guideline. With someone with as complex a delivery as Young, generalities don't always hold. The Padres have given him a few cortisone shots so far in trying to calm the issue, but the fact remains that despite his best efforts, he's just not a guy that can hold up for a full season under a starter's workload. He can be valuable at 175 innings a year, but not at 100, even at his reasonable salary for the next few years. The team expects him back at the minimum, but I think it may be a little more.

Brett Gardner (3 DXL)
In the history of outfielder-vs.-wall collisions, you know who usually wins, but just as Steven Goldman has pointed out, it's the non-padded portions that worry me. When Torii Hunter ran into the wall in San Francisco, my immediate question was "padded or unpadded section?" (I wasn't watching the game, but my Twitter posse was!) With Gardner, he had the bad luck of backing into a section of the NYS wall where there's a window. His back or pelvis caught that pointed portion where the window frame is, and yeah, that's going to hurt. Luckily, it's not worse than a bruise, but he also had his head whipped back and they had to watch him for a concussion. Look for him to miss a couple of days. The question now is whether baseball will take a hard look at fixing some of these unpadded areas or if outfielders will agree to stop running into walls. Both would be good for the game.

Joel Pineiro (0 DXL)
It was a really scary situation when Pineiro went down and was then carried off the field (which is never a good sign) during Thursday's game. Turns out it was just cramps. Very painful, deep, strong cramps, but those can be fixed. They were severe enough that the Cards' ATCs wanted to get him into the training room asap to make sure that he didn't strain anything and to reduce the pain as quickly as possible. It's a little troublesome that he'd had the Trainer out just before that pitch for an arm cramp, but I don't think anyone could have predicted how quickly it would get out of hand. The heat and humidity contributed, so let's hope that Pineiro hydrates better in the future. He should make his next start.

Jonathan Broxton (3 DXL)
Scott Downs isn't the only one dealing with a toe sprain. Broxton's big toe is enough of an issue that the team elected to give him a cortisone shot in order to bring the swelling down. They're trying to get ahead of the issue and keep it from becoming a bigger problem. Look for the Dodgers to try and find ways to give him some rest leading into the All-Star break. He may lose a few save opportunities here and there as Joe Torre buys rest for him, but it's not that big of a deal right now. The Dodgers' lead in the division standings gives them the room to be conservative.

Quick Cuts: You have to wonder if Joe Mauer has been replaced by a hitting robot, given the way he's played since coming back. He has the flu, giving some evidence that he's still human. ... Ryan Braun's back problems are minor and shouldn't cost him much if any playing time. ... Brad Lidge is throwing again, reporting some improvement with his knee, and he could be back as early as Tuesday. ... There are all sorts of directions with the mental-health issues. While Khalil Greene is back for the Cardinals and Joey Votto is headed to Florida for some rehab games, Dontrelle Willis is back on the DL with anxiety issues. While he's again denying it, his agent Matt Sosnick told XM Thursday night that the anxiety is affecting his pitching, rather than the other way around. ... Manny Ramirez will begin his "rehab" assignment on Tuesday in preparation for an expected July 3 return. Umm, why do they get this during a suspension? Is it unpaid?

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Scott Downs,  Groin

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