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June 23, 2009

Under The Knife

Progress Reports

by Will Carroll

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There was a short schedule last night in baseball, but there are enough injuries to take this from a "Mini-UTK" Unfiltered Post up to a slightly smaller than normal UTK. Hey, good things come in small packages, right? Powered by finishing my work for the Football Outsiders book, on to the injuries:

Carlos Beltran (20 DXL)
The MRI on Beltran showed that the bone bruise in his knee was getting bigger. This led to two things. First, the Mets put him on the DL, and then Joel Sherman tweeted that it made him think of this classic. So we get some good with the bad. As I stated yesterday, Beltran's knee has been problematic for a while, leading some to wonder if he can stay in center field or if he can even stay in the game long-term. I mentioned a meniscal transplant, but actually the most likely off-season scenario might be for Beltran to have microfracture surgery. This is precisely the type of situation where the operation does the most good, but the results in baseball have been mixed, and there's no good comparable player for a plus defender like Beltran. The Mets will now focus on his rehab and just hope that maintenance and rest keep him productive. The team expects him back just after the All-Star break.

Akinori Iwamura (90 DXL)
Let's hear it for secondary stabilizers! Iwamura had one of the uglier injuries that we've seen this year, and yet, when Dr. Koco Eaton came out of surgery, the news couldn't have been better. Iwamura did not need an ACL reconstruction, just a simple meniscectomy. The ACL had torn, but not to the degree that it needed to be replaced. Eaton did a simple 'scope to fix the meniscus, and Iwamura went from being done for the season to someone you can expect back in August. That could be a big boost for the Rays down the stretch, though Ben Zobrist is playing pretty darn well. The interesting thing here is what the Rays aren't saying, and when they began to not say itL Eaton had to know before the surgery that there was at least a strong chance that the ACL wasn't torn. By going in with the 'scope first and getting visuals on it, he avoided opening the knee unnecessarily and costing Iwamura more time. The delay between injury and surgery is still a big question mark, but my guess is that Iwamura was rehabbing in hopes of avoiding surgery up to that point. If so, we can now add this to the reasons why the Rays weren't even considering trades to fill the spot.

Scott Kazmir (30 DXL)
The Rays also got some good news on the pitching front. During his start in Triple-A, Kazmir looked... well, nothing at all like the Kazmir we've seen so far in 2009. He showed good velocity, solid mechanics, a nice mix of pitches, and (gasp) efficiency in his six innings of work. In fact, he looked so much better than Clay Buchholz, his opponent, that one observer told me this was a big negative for Buchholz. "It wasn't a good outing for Buchholz, and he's better than that, but the contrast was huge. I'm not sure if that says more about [Kazmir] or Buchholz though." Let's take the positive view and say that it's the payoff from his work with ASMI and with Rick Peterson, plus a little less time at Venue, that has Kazmir back to the place he needs to be physically, mentally, and mechanically. Kazmir could return to the Rays and be back into their rotation as soon as his next start.

Ervin Santana (15 DXL)
The Angels aren't catching many breaks this season, but moving Santana to the DL isn't as bad as it seems on the surface. It's a retroactive move backdated to June 12, which makes him eligible to come off of the DL on this coming Friday. The move was made after he had a little soreness during his throwing session on Sunday. Santana noted that the forearm pain was coming very high in the forearm, near the elbow, but still in the "belly" of the muscles there. It's unclear if he'll be ready to come off on Friday, or how the Angels will reconfigure the rotation to slot him back in, but this isn't a good sign. While most focus on an elbow injury, this sounds like a classic cascade to me.

Xavier Nady (80 DXL)
CC Sabathia (0 DXL)

As with Iwamura, for Nady the initial reports ended up being worse than the actual result, largely due to the recent advances in medical science. Nady would have needed Tommy John surgery just a few years ago, not because the injury was worse, but because he wouldn't have even had options like PRP. Now, it seems to have worked, and he's back not only hitting but playing the outfield as well. His arm isn't 100 percent, but according to observers, it's "passable." Another said "he's got at least the arm Johnny Damon does now, and Damon's isn't expected to get better like [Nady's]." Nady begins his rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton on Wednesday, and he could be back with the Yankees by next week. The Yankees also got good news on Sabathia. After coming out early in his last start, the soreness in his arm doesn't appear to be serious enough to alter his schedule as far as his next turn. While there's still some concern and the team will watch his throw day closely, it appears to have been a very minor issue.

Brian Giles (15 DXL)
It's almost a throwaway in this article that Giles is even a Padre, let alone injured. That tells you a lot about how far he's gone downhill, both on the field and in public perception. The note there that the Padres are calling Giles' injury a knee strain is key. Strain involves muscle or tendon, and it's likely in this case to be the patellar tendon. The parallel to the end of Mark McGwire's career shouldn't be lost on anyone. The Padres could push Giles to the DL by the weekend if the knee hasn't improved.

Kyle Lohse (30 DXL)
Lohse is making progress, having thrown a "good session" in the pen. It went on for about 40 pitches, and he seems clear of the burning sensation that he was having in his forearm. With the connection to his being hit with a pitch, we have to assume that rest cleared out a bruise or some type of traumatic remnant. The only remaining concern is weakness, both in the affected area and from the slight loss of conditioning after being off the mound for a month. The Cardinals expect him back just before the All-Star break, though.

Quick Cuts: If you're in or near Indianapolis on August 10th, and you like either baseball or football, you should come to the "Tweetup" with Peter King. It should be a blast talking two sports with one of the best in the business. ... The Mets got lucky yesterday when both Jose Reyes and ATC Ray Ramirez walked away from a car accident on the way to see the team doctor. ... There's some very interesting info on Daisuke Matsuzaka, as it looks like the Red Sox really do blame the WBC. ... Edwin Encarnacion hit a homer in his first rehab game. That's a good sign as far as where his wrist injury is at; he'll be back in about a week. ... Another Phillies pitcher, Clay Condrey, heads to the DL, but Brad Lidge is expected back soon. ... Josh Outman will miss his Wednesday start after having a contrast MRI; there's no word on when he'll slot back in or who will take that start. ... Reed Johnson will miss the upcoming series after aggravating his back on a flight. ... Nice transition from Don Fehr to Michael Weiner. My question is, who's the next person to sit across the table from him? ... This is a joke, right? We blame Alex Rodriguez for a night out? Like every other player was staying in, reading Three Nights In August and drinking milk.

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