Roger Clemens is a Yankee again, the highest paid player in baseball history on paper by my math. People are breaking this signing down in many ways, but for me, the question is only whether Clemens, one of the all-time greats, can stay healthy. He did it last year, more or less, the way he’ll do it this year–playing a shortened season designed to stave off fatigue during the playoff chase. He’ll return to a rotation that isn’t dissimilar from the one he came into in 2006, an injury-plagued and underperforming bunch. He’s not going to go much beyond 100 pitches, he’s going to show signs of wearing down by September, but throughout, he’ll be effective enough to keep his team in games. With the current Yankees lineup, we have to figure he’s going to get more run support than he did in Houston, where it seemed at times that the offense stopped to watch Clemens the way that the Bulls occasionally did when Michael Jordan was on the floor. Clemens may not be the kind of every-night superstar that Jordan was, but he’s close. You don’t get many chances in a lifetime to see guys like this play. If you’re in Scranton or Trenton, be ready.
Powered by the work of Timothy Ferriss, on to the injuries:
- There’s a part of me that wonders whether I’m going to have to write an essay on concussions for Baseball Prospectus 2008, just as I have for the last two editions of Pro Football Prospectus. Let’s see if this shakes you up–after Brayan Pena‘s concussion, the result of a backswing, he could not hear. In addition to memory loss, the catcher lost his hearing temporarily. Pena’s out for now and, given the severity of his post-concussion symptoms, this one could be a while. The problem with concussion recovery is that there are no real timeframes. Guys like Mike Matheny and Corey Koskie will never come back, while Jim Edmonds went from being unable to fly to playing in the World Series within a few weeks. We’ll just wish Pena the best of luck in this recovery and hope that research like that done by the Dodgers‘ Stan Conte helps prevent the next concussion. MLB needs to make this a priority.
- The Twins are talking about their pushing Joe Mauer to the DL as simply precaution. Maybe so, but their use of him doesn’t seem very cautious leading up to this. While there’s no evidence that this is anything more than a Grade II quad strain, there are enough problems with Mauer that their heavy reliance on him at catcher seems frivolous. While I’m not advocating a position switch at this point, I do think that splitting his workload in some fashion would be a positive. Give him four or five days a week at catcher, a day or two at DH, and a rest day. As his career goes on and assuming no more injuries, perhaps the Twins can shift him more to DH, or maybe third base. Mauer’s a special enough talent that protecting him while keeping his bat in the lineup just makes sense. One spot of worry are reports that Mauer has a “lump” in his leg. That raises some spectre of myositis ossificans, something that could extend Mauer’s recovery time significantly.
- Jim Thome is making some progress with his rib/back injury. He’ll take batting practice on Tuesday with everyone watching, hoping that the muscle doesn’t seize up again the way it did the last time he tried this. If all goes well, Thome could be back by the weekend. He’d likely head to Double-A Birmingham to get some swings in a couple of rehab games between now and then. It’s clear that the Sox aren’t going to put him on the field without him being at 100 percent, or close enough to it that we won’t be able to tell the difference. A recurrence at this stage wouldn’t help anyone.
- The Angels are used to seeing Bartolo Colon call for the trainer. They just didn’t expect it this time. Colon had pain in or near his shoulder late in his last start and had to be removed. Initial reports were that it was a biceps strain, but later information indicates that it is a triceps strain. This is a common occurrence after a rotator cuff injury, as the triceps, a strong durable muscle, is used by the body as a stabilizer to protect the damaged cuff muscles. Once the cuff is back up to speed, the triceps is now at risk due to the increased usage in a role it is not designed for. At this point, the injury doesn’t appear serious, though the team is holding off any decision on the DL and even his next start until Monday to see how his arm responds.
- What’s that cart doing there? And why do pitchers shag flies anyway? Freddy Garcia combined those two mysteries into one scary injury, running into the cart and then having to use it to leave the field. He smacked his shin into the side of the thing and was in obvious pain, making his scheduled start on Monday very questionable. While there doesn’t appear to be any long-term damage, the chance that the injury could cause a change in mechanics has to be weighed. In one of the best quotes about the incident, new closer Brett Myers said of the cart, “We’re suing.” Garcia should avoid the DL; now he just needs to start avoiding carts.
- How bad is a stress fracture in the pitching elbow? That’s just one of the questions that Orioles fans are asking regarding their young star, Adam Loewen. This type of injury is very uncommon, and one source suggested that his lack of experience as a schoolboy might have contributed. As with any stress fracture, there’s no one single cause, and given his clean motion and usage, I’m at a loss to explain any causation. The worst-case scenario would be a lack of healing that would necessitate surgical fixation, but if the fracture heals completely and cleanly, there should be no long-term effects. One of the best comps for this, believe it or not, is Mark Prior, who was able to return quickly from a similar fracture in his pitching elbow, though Prior’s was a compression fracture caused by a batted ball. Loewen’s essentially done for the season, but I don’t think his future is significantly less bright.
- Here’s the long and short on Carl Pavano–even before he had an MRI or saw a specialist, he’d made the decision to have Tommy John surgery. Even after seeing specialists and finding that while his UCL was torn, it was not torn so significantly that doctors recommended the surgery. Much like Octavio Dotel a few years ago, though, Pavano is simply not willing to pitch through the soreness. There’s probably a high number of pitchers in the game today (far too high a number, actually) that have similar, perhaps worse damage and get out there. I’m not advocating that anyone pitch with pain, but when the possibility exists that someone can come back without surgery, I think they owe it to the team paying the bills to do it. Pavano’s not willing to, perhaps closing a chapter that the Yankees would rather not have had written. Call him “American Idle” or the “Rajah of Rehab” if you want. In my opinion, he’s gone beyond that, and is simply stealing money.
Quick Cuts: John Patterson heads to the DL with an elbow problem similar to the one he endured last season. There’s no structural problem, but one source says “that would be easier to fix” … One of my astute observers texted me with this over the weekend: “Papelbon’s arm slot and velocity are way down.” Both true. Not sure if it’s anything, since both were back up over the weekend, but something to watch … Until we know more about the extent of the tear in the hip flexor tendon of Garret Anderson, it’s very tough to put any kind of timeframe on his return … Philip Hughes (and is it Phil or Philip?) is playing catch, a nice sign that the hamstring strain isn’t too bad. He’s still several weeks away from a return, putting him on pace to be back in the rotation just before Roger Clemens joins it.