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July 31, 2009

Under The Knife

Setbacks Central

by Will Carroll

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Carlos Beltran (8/15)
Let's clarify yesterday's report about Beltran. Over on Twitter, the manic Mets fans took exception to the suggestion that he was likely headed for microfracture surgery, and that it would signify what I called a "last hurrah." First, most cited a late-June visit to Dr. Richard Steadman-the inventor of the surgery and one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world-where Steadman was quoted as saying that Beltran didn't need microfracture surgery. I say read it more closely: what Steadman said was that Beltran didn't need it now, and wouldn't as long as the bruising healed up well. It didn't, he'll play anyway, and that's what changed. Sure, a top doc said that, but as with virtually everything in the injury world, things change not just from month to month, but sometimes minute to minute. It seems many interpreted "last hurrah" as "end of career," where instead I meant it more in the sense of the Spencer Tracy classic in that things aren't what they used to be. Most also pointed to a successful microfracture surgery like the one performed on Brian Giles; he came back in about seven months, and played reasonably well with no real problems since. Giles did have something of a 2008 resurgence, especially in his fielding numbers (both Clay Davenport's and UZR), going from godawful to about average in right field, and rebounding at the plate. I'm not sure if that means it relieved his discomfort but just didn't last, or that age caught up to him. In fact, despite the similar procedure, I just don't see enough similarities between Giles and Beltran to feel comfortable saying they'll have similar recoveries. We'll see if he has it and we'll see how he does if he does, but first, we'll see if he can help the Mets.

Brian Schneider (8/2)
John Maine (8/20)

Speaking of the Mets, let's continue the seemingly daily update on their injuries. Schneider should be back behind the plate after a cortisone shot in his sore knee. He's had issues with the knee all season, along with a calf strain that's lingered. Nevertheless, he's expected back by the weekend, and if they hope to keep him healthy, he'll need more days off. The knee is affecting him as much at the plate as behind it, making it easier for the Mets to simply fall back on a tandem of Omir Santos and Robinson Cancel. The Mets got a sliver of sunshine with Maine after he saw Dr. Andrews: the good doctor confirmed that he would not need surgery and sent him back to Florida to continue his rehab efforts. There's still no timetable for his return, though mid-to-late August is a popular guess.

Jeff Suppan (9/1)
As things unravel in Milwaukee, the Brewers have gone from buyer to maybe seller about as quickly as any team I can remember. Keeping this team in contention this long is a pretty solid feat for Doug Melvin and his crew, but with their budget constraints there is some thought that the team could trade off pieces and parts that are expensive in '09 and won't help in '10. Suppan, J.J. Hardy, and Bill Hall would top that list, but Suppan's headed to the DL while Hall heads to the minors to try and find his swing. Suppan's oblique strain is likely to cost him a month, with an outside chance that the Brewers go with a "sneak preview" rotation of youngsters behind Yovani Gallardo. This actually might be the time for one of those Doug Melvin out-of-the-box ideas to try to get through. May I suggest the SOMA plan?

Brandon Webb (10/4)
Another setback? Yes, Webb has had one in his rehab, stopping the progress and sending him to Arlington to see Dr. Keith Meister. The Andrews proteg is setting up as another "super surgeon" in the heart of Texas, and is establishing himself as a go-to guy on shoulders. With a $6 million decision coming up for the Diamondbacks, many think that it will be made as much by Meister as by GM Josh Byrnes. If Webb's shoulder gets opened up, the thought is that Webb's option will get declined. I don't think it's that simple, and there's no reason to make a hasty decision. Many are comparing this to the Ben Sheets situation, and while there are some parallels, there are not that many. It is a simple decision for me to say that Webb's done for '09.

Vladimir Guerrero (8/10)
Torii Hunter (8/4)

The Angels are fighting off the Rangers and Mariners for the AL West, and realize that their aging team might struggle to turn the tide after this season, putting them in something of a win-now mode. It would help to have players healthy, so getting Guerrero and Hunter back would help. With a three-game lead they don't need to rush either back. Guerrero's knee/calf issue is well enough to allow him to take part in drills, but since running isn't going to be a big deal as a DH-only player down the stretch, it's not that telling either. He'll be activated when he shows that his bat is ready, which most are pegging as being at least a week away. Hunter is a bit closer, though not in time for this weekend-Mike Scioscia doesn't want to test him on his former home turf in Minnesota. While the public reason is that turf, Scioscia also thinks that playing in Minnesota would have Hunter amped up, and maybe push him past the safety point for his oblique. So instead he should be back early next week.

Yunel Escobar (8/2)
Martin Prado (8/1)

The Braves continue to scuffle with injuries, losing both of their starting middle infielders in Thursday's game. Escobar got blasted on the wrist-and I ask again, where's the pad or plastic?-but at least his x-rays were negative. He was said to have a nice bruise and a clear tattoo of the ball's stitches, so he'll likely miss a couple of days while spending some quality time with an ice pack. Prado also visited the x-ray machine after getting hit by a line drive during warmups; it hit him right on the ankle, and he was in significant pain. His x-rays were also negative, and he was seen walking during the game. There was no need to rush him with Kelly Johnson available, though Prado isn't expected to get Pipp'd here. (Is it wrong that I think of Dexter every time I see Prado?)

Joel Zumaya (10/4)
The news is that Zumaya's heading back under the knife, this time with Jim Andrews in Pensacola. The pitcher is still in significant pain, and got a cortisone shot-not to help him pitch, but just to get him to be able to sleep. He'll have surgery once the swelling is gone to correct the stress fracture (likely a simple fixation), and to see what else might be wrong in there. Zumaya's shown that he can't stay healthy in this role, and I'm not sure if there's one where he can. It's time to rebuild those mechanics, and if he can't do it in the course of this rehab, well, Neil always said it was better to burn out than fade away.

Quick Cuts: Shane Victorino took batting practice, and his bruised knee is doing fine. He may need a couple more days off, but he won't need any DL time. ... Bradley Bergesen was hit by a comebacker on his shin, but x-rays were negative. They'll see how he responds over the next couple of days before making any decision on his next start. Again, I suggest shin guards of some sort for all pitchers. ... Geovany Soto is expected to start a short rehab assignment soon, with the aim to get him back with the Cubs sometime next week. ... Reed Johnson will miss a month with a fractured foot, maybe a bit less. ... LaTroy Hawkins is dealing with an outbreak of shingles. That's said to be very painful, so watch out over the next few days. ... Freddy Sanchez passed his trade physical, but still has swelling in his knee keeping him off the roster; I'm not exactly sure how that works. ... Matt Lindstrom wasn't totally successful during his rehab, but the Marlins are expected to activate him. He won't step directly back into the closer role.

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