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August 13, 2009

Under The Knife

Feeling Famous?

by Will Carroll

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Derek Jeter
Mariano Rivera (8/14 ERD)

Exhale, Yankees fans. The Yankee captain fouled a ball off of his right foot and was forced to leave the game. (Maybe he can build a big wall around his foot?) X-rays showed it was nothing more than a painful bruise, and the world began to rotate on its axis again. I'm only being slightly facetious, given Yankeeverse (over)reactions. Jeter tends to come back quickly, so if he misses any time with this painful foot problem, it's unlikely to be much. One thing to watch is to see whether or not he loses any range to his left. There have always been question marks about how to measure Jeter's defense, but this could tell us whether it's reaction time or actual physical speed that has always caused him problems with balls going up the middle. As for Rivera, he stayed behind and saw team doctors about his "cranky" shoulder. I'm sorry, but cranky is what I am before coffee; Rivera's shoulder is inflamed and a bit sore. Not painful, just sore, which means that Phil Hughes and Phil Coke might see even more usage. The back of the bullpen is being treated like Joe Torre never left, and that could be an issue. Rivera should be fine in a couple days. As always, he has one of these every year, comes back fine, and remains perhaps the greatest closer of all time.

Carlos Delgado (9/15)
The Mets are going to have to wait a little longer for Delgado and perhaps a lot longer. That's because he strained his oblique while rehabbing in Florida, and the early word is that it's a significant problem. Delgado was expected back from hip surgery in the next ten days, but pushing that past September 1 is going to cause some roster repercussions. The Mets seem to think that Delgado won't be able to get the at-bats he needs in the minors with this latest setback, which could keep them from bringing him back, even with expanded rosters. That doesn't make sense to me, and makes me wonder if there's some financial reason for them not to do so. Delgado's not going to make any difference at this stage in terms of the "surge" the Mets had hoped to get with returns from Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, but there's the matter of Delgado proving that he can still play. Even if the Mets have no interest in re-signing Delgado, allowing him to prove that he's healthy is one of those nice things teams do, knowing that players talk and that small things often affect decisions on where to play. I still think we'll end up seeing a Delgado cameo at the end of the season.

Lance Berkman
Berkman is back out on the field after missing time with a strained calf. It was just another 2-for-3 day for the guy who does nothing but hit. At 33, he's only a couple of years younger than Todd Helton, but both might see the end of their careers shaped by injury. Berkman has, for the most part, avoided the chronic conditions that Helton's had to deal with, but while you might perceive that Helton has had a significant gap in his career due to injury, it's hard to find in his career line. Despite back and intestinal issues that were extremely significant, his single-season low in games played is 144. Berkman came back quickly from an ACL tear a few years back and hasn't really missed a step (no pun intended) because of the style of player he was and is. Two years younger than Helton, Berkman nevertheless seems to have several years more at near-peak left in him, plus a couple of contract years coming up. With almost 1500 hits and over 300 homers, it's time to start thinking about Berkman as a possible Hall of Famer. As for his leg, it shouldn't be an issue.

Ian Kinsler (8/15)
Kinsler started his rehab with Frisco, but had to go to Tulsa rather than staying in the Metroplex. For his trouble, he went 0-for-2, but at least the hamstring didn't appear to be an issue. It wasn't really tested, at bat or in the field, but he'll have one more game in Double-A before returning to the Rangers' lineup for the playoff chase. Kinsler is key to the team's hopes in a lot of ways, and even with an off year, the offense has keyed off of his ability to get into scoring position and then across. He's on pace to score as many runs as he did last year, which ended a month early, so does a 60-point drop in OBP equal out to that missed time? We'll see if he can get back to expectations once he returns. The hamstring shouldn't be what holds him back.

Chris Young (10/4)
So, Jake Peavy's gone, and now Young might not be back. That alone sums up the Padres' season. Young hasn't pitched in two months, and after a visit to Kerlan-Jobe it's looking like the shoulder injury might keep him out for the rest of the season. We're told that Young will head out for a second opinion, and who he goes to might tell us more about what the problem is at the core. MRIs have never been able to reflect a clear problem, but we know that Young can't throw without inflammation and pain. The assumption has been that it's his labrum that's bothering him, so we'll look to see if he heads out to Jim Andrews, or whether he goes to one of the shoulder experts like Craig Morgan or Keith Meister. Either way, it looks as if Young's season is done, his third year of declining innings totals due to injury.

Dexter Fowler (8/15)
The Wall won when Dexter Fowler took it on the other night, but Fowler didn't lose too badly. A precautionary MRI came back clean, and the Rockies are just waiting to get Fowler back to a particular comfort level before putting him back on the field. They'll test his running and make sure that any pain from the collision isn't throwing off his gait and putting him at risk for some sort of cascade injury. He's not expected to miss significant time, but the Rockies do have plenty of outfield options, so they won't need to rush Fowler back. While he should have no problems once he returns, he's likely to run a bit less the first few games back.

Pedro Martinez
Pedro was throwing the ball well and showing velocity that surprised many, given what we saw from him last year. Certainly, 93 mph is nothing to sneeze at, and he sustained it pretty well last night. I'd expected five good innings from Martinez, and that's exactly what we got. The question now is the same as last year: Can Martinez recover quickly enough between starts? Next time out (and even during his throw day), we'll need to look to see if he's starting out at the same velocity. I have serious questions about his recovery and stamina from game to game, and thus how sustainable his success is going to be. The Phillies aren't hoping that Martinez can pitch them to the World Series, just that he can hold down his spot well enough to protect the front of the rotation.

Homer Bailey
Pitchers do fear the comebacker, though few will actually say so. Chris Young certainly knows what Albert Pujols can do, and now Bailey does too. That's because he took a hard shot off his landing foot from a Pujols scorcher and was forced to leave the game, though he was not in obvious pain. His X-rays came back negative and it appears his shoe gave him enough protection to avoid the worst. Bailey was lucky enough, but now he'll have to see how his foot responds. Early word is that the Reds think that he'll make his next start, and that they'll consider bringing him back early if possible. The Reds' bullpen has been very taxed lately, so if healthy, this might not be the worst idea Dusty Baker has had.

New Batting Helmet
Are baseball players so stupid or so vain that they would risk their health and future over the fact that a protective helmet looks a little funny? It's hard to tell from pictures that don't give much context what players like Jeff Francouer or Nomar Garciaparra are complaining about, but the new S100 helmet has the chance to keep injuries, like those that Edgar Gonzalez and Scott Rolen suffered, from costing players time off. Moreover, they might keep players' lives more normal than what's happened to someone like Corey Koskie, who still has PCS-related symptoms to this day. The fact is, players have laughed off their own safety for far too long, and have in the past, whether it's earflaps, protective glasses, pads for pitchers, and now this. I don't want to be one of those people who thinks kids need to wear a helmet in the bathtub or sends them out in bubble wrap, but why is this a choice? This is one area where teams or even the Commissioner should say "We're leaders. We're examples. We're going to wear the best equipment and keep our players safe and moreover, we're going to use some of our money to make sure that this technology trickles down."

Quick Cuts: I'm not really that interested in the talk about Joba Chamberlain and innings limits. It's smart, especially considering the Yankees' lead. Would they do the same thing in a tight race? I don't know. ... David Wright was said to be ill when he missed Tuesday's game, but it was his knee they were looking at late in Wednesday's game. This is a situation that bears watching. ... Jed Lowrie is rejoining the Red Sox, but there's still no clear timetable for when he might return to the lineup. ... Ted Lilly had a great rehab outing in Peoria, going five without giving up a run. He showed no issues with the shoulder or knee. ... Armando Galarraga was scratched from his start yesterday due to illness. He's expected to make his next turn. ... In the on-again, off-again saga of Troy Glaus' return to the Cardinals, it's kind of back on. Glaus is now saying that he'd be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter in September. ... Brett Gardner got the cast taken off of his hand on Tuesday and thinks he'll be back with the Yankees in about two weeks. September 1 is about two weeks away, right? ... Nate McLouth missed another game with a strained hamstring and will test it again today.

Related Content:  Back,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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