A 6-0 win for the Sox gets the baseball season in Chicago underway.
A gorgeous April afternoon in the Cell in Chicago, with the temps in the 70s, and the Indians in town for Opening Day? It's a far sight removed from the Cubs opener where a friend turned blue, certainly. It was almost a pity that it was a Mark Buehrle start, given Buehrle's rep for fast work, but it was perhaps unsurprising that the South Side's southpaw of choice made fast work of the Tribe.
Chris Carpenter's setback puts him in the company of Tommy John himself, and the Yankees and Braves are having serious issues with their staffs.
Chris Carpenter (120 DXL)
Carpenter had a setback in his rehab, and it sounds like it's the oldest one in the book. After the surgery that has since taken his name, Tommy John himself had ulnar neuritis, which is a swelling of the nerve that you and I call the funny bone. It led to a change in the surgery by some physicians, moving (transposing) the nerve out of its normal groove in order to keep it from being irritated by the new ligament. No one is really sure why it happens in some cases, but surgeons continue to debate whether or not to move the nerve as a matter of course or whether to leave it in place, since most players have no issues. I once watched several top surgeons heatedly debate this at the Injuries in Baseball Course back in 2003, and was surprised at the passion they held for their position. Carpenter's irritation will be checked by Jim Andrews to see if he'll need rest or surgery to transpose the nerve. Rest would set him back about a month, pushing a return to August, while the surgery would end his chances for '08 and put it at around the start of spring training next season. Either way, the team now needs to fill that gap in their rotation and are hoping that Mark Mulder can at least be league average after some progress in his second go round at rehab. We'll have more word on Carpenter after his visit to Birmingham today.
Injuries are mounting, but are we just more concerned about the who than the how many?
Even if it wasn't Friday the 13th right now, some teams would be feeling like it is. It's been a horror show of injuries this year, with the DL packed with more than 150 players. Some are the injuries we count but that really don't matter in the normal scheme. For example, Thomas Diamond is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but the Rangers weren't expecting him to be a big part of their '08 plans in the way that they were counting on Jason Jennings or Brandon McCarthy, but a day is a day. Even dollars can be a bit skewed; Philip Hughes makes the minimum, but his value to the Yankees is far higher than that. So as we watch player after player and star after star headed to the DL, we have to ask ourselves two questions: Are things actually worse? And why can't we prevent this or at the very least reduce their number and impact?
Jeremy Bonderman and Ryan Church recover from career-threatening injuries, the Braves try to rebuild their bullpen, and the Cardinals play it safe with their rotation.
I'd planned a big article on this and written most of it, but with everyone trying to explain why Big Brown lost, I think we've missed one important point. While the horse was put on steroids--specifically Winstrol, the same steroid that many players, including Rafael Palmeiro, have tested positive for--it wasn't to make him faster. I'm no doctor and I'm certainly no veterinarian, but I can read. Here are the important numbers:
Losing Smoltz and Prior, again, while the Red Sox deal with mounting concerns about their lineup.
The hamate bone. The glenoid ligament. The extensor carpii ulnaris. These are terms that we're adding to the baseball lexicon. I like to think we're expanding the knowledge base to the point where you'll someday say, "How 'bout them Mets" to a guy on the street and he'll say "Sure, but Jones' swing still needs to come back after he had the hook of his hamate removed if we're going to have a shot at the pennant." That's a ways off, but we're getting the chance to use these terms far too frequently. Still, as the names get ticked off the middle rounds of the draft today, remember that bonuses through about the tenth round are still about equivalent to one more athletic trainer or, better, a raise for the current staff. It's one thing to draft a Dan Schlereth, but I'll bet you that no matter how good Schlereth turns out to be, Ken Crenshaw will be more important to the D'backs' success over the next five years. Tim Beckham may be as good as the scouts say, but Ron Porterfield is already producing in the bigs. A lot of teams are talking a good medhead game, but very few are rewarding the guys on the front line. One of the great things about my job is being able to champion these men and women, telling their tales of success as part of the overall story of winning baseball. I can only hope some GMs and owners will realize what a resource they have. Powered by the upcoming Pizza Feed on June 30th in Manhattan, plus upcoming feeds in Tampa and Pittsburgh, on to the injuries:
Wrist injuries keep David Ortiz and Nick Johnson on the sidelines, but Jake Peavy's rehab is slow but steady progress.
David Ortiz (35 DXL)
Everyone I spoke with was stunned when the wrist injury to Ortiz went from "mild annoyance" to "possible season-ender." The images that showed a "significant tear" caught everyone--especially the Red Sox--by surprise. As I said yesterday, everyone I spoke to seemed to think this was minor and would be a couple games. Instead, the sprain is going to cost Ortiz at least a month of the season, and could be far worse than that. The invocation of Nomar Garciaparra made originally by Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald, who broke the story Monday night, caused wailing from Red Sox Nation (no doubt Bill Simmons covered his ears with his Celtics jersey). The team will wait for a month to see if rest alone is enough to heal the left wrist. There are reports that it's the tendon sheath rather than a ligament (via NESN), so there's still more to be sorted out here. If it is the sheath, it covers the extensor, the tendon that helps the wrist move "down" as if swinging a hammer, or medially (towards the body in anatomical position, though this can be confusing, since in anatomical position the palms face upwards). Take a quick "swing" and you'll see that this is precisely the kind of motion made on every swing of the bat. If there's any consolation, it's that Ortiz injured his "top hand" and that he's overcome wrist problems before (Ortiz broke his hamate in his right wrist during his Twins tenure). Even in the best case, Ortiz will miss a month and lose some power once he is back. For the Sox, they do have some interleague games coming up and could help Manny Ramirez's knees by shifting him to DH in the interim.
Sometimes, a pitcher just needs to trust that he's been fixed up and needs to fire away.
We all know that recovering Tommy John surgery is as close to an automatic there is in the world of sports medicine. Return, yes, but there can always be complications. Many players either change their mechanics and hurt themselves (usually the shoulder) or don't change their mechanics and end up hurting the elbow again. Some never get it all the way back, something that most think is mental. Coming back from any injury is tough, but the fact is that while a return to competition happens in upwards of 85 percent of cases, some players don't come back to level. I can remember in 2004 a pitcher was coming back from minor elbow surgery (he had some chips removed), and in the first month of the season he pitched tentatively. Through May 7, he was only 1-0 with an ERA in the mid-fives. It's said that pitching coach Rick Anderson came out in this game and told him to just "let it go." Johan Santana did, ending up with a 20-win season and becoming the pitcher we now know. Maybe it's time for that talk with Francisco Liriano. I had Eric Seidman, one of those who looks at PitchFX data, to take a look at his release point; watching the game, Liriano seemed to be hunting for it, but my eyes and the data don't match up. Liriano's not to May 3 yet, so just like C.C. Sabathia, he's still got time to turn it around.
With names like Beckett, Sheets, and Bedard on the list of pitchers with problems, teams are working around their top starter's absences.
Josh Beckett (0 DXL)
The Red Sox pulled Beckett from his start last night, citing a stiff neck as the cause. They were ready, having David Pauley up from Pawtucket, but holding off on the official roster move until they knew they needed to make it, which shows that this didn't just happen immediately before the start. The Sox didn't really say much about the flu going around the clubhouse, but the Boston Globe noted that Beckett was dealing with some flu-like symptoms, and that they likely factored into the decision. Right now, the Sox are in wait-and-see mode with Beckett, unclear over whether they will skip his start or if they'll slot him in later this week. I'd bet on the latter, which will also, in essence, buy them one of those extra days of rest for their young pitchers and for Daisuke Matsuzaka. Expect some roster juggling, because Pauley didn't pitch well, and the Sox may not need to keep him up.