I’ve been watching the Diamondbacks a lot over the last week, and they’re a solid, exciting team. As I’ve been watching, I’ve been taken with the way that everything they do seems to have a purpose. That, plus the pedigree of GM Josh Byrnes, led me refer to them on radio this week as “Red Sox West.” That’s not purely accurate, but it did get me to thinking about the future. What if every team was equally smart? We may never see equal talent across the board on the field, but there’s little reason that, within narrow bands, front offices shouldn’t be working from the same information with roughly the same level of brainpower. The decisions they make will be different, some good, some bad, but would homogeneity actually be a good thing? Would that environment just give an opportunity to a team willing to zag while everyone else zigged?
Powered by my respect for #42, on to the injuries…
Jimmy Rollins (10 DXL/$1.1 million)
Rollins’ ankle injury looked to be pretty simple. Rather than the normal rolling-over style sprain, the Phillies shortstop actually “stuffed” the ankle, compressing it as he hit the bag a bit with a bit more force than intended. The bruising resulting from that play appears to be holding him out, though Rollins has left the team to attend a funeral. Before flying out, Rollins had some images done on the ankle, which I’m told were supposed to locate exactly where the bruising and any other structural issues are. Rollins has been used as a pinch-hitter, though during those appearances, it’s clear that any sort of lateral movement is painful despite some sort of bracing visible beneath his sock. Since this isn’t a typical sprain, it’s very hard to say how it will heal up, leaving the situation very much day to day. The management of this injury looks standard, but that might be part of the problem. In treating it like any other sprain, the Phillies have been left without a retro-active move in place, and have extended the absence of their leadoff hitter and leader. The hope is that Rollins will be able to return to the lineup shortly after he returns to the team.
Erik Bedard (15 DXL/$1.4 million)
“Torn labrum.” That’s what I’m hearing, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Bedard is having significant inflammation in his hip that one source tells me has been diagnosed as a small tear of his acetabular labrum. This shouldn’t be a cause for panic; knowing that the injury is a small tear doesn’t change the prognosis. The Mariners will need to reduce the inflammation and figure out if pitching is going to continue to irritate the injury. If it can’t be controlled, Bedard will need surgery, which is normally minor and has a solid track record for returns. It would cost him a couple months, to be sure, but players like Derek Lowe and Justin Duchscherer have come back from the injury. The bigger question is when and how this happened. The M’s will be hard at work trying to figure out how to get Bedard back out there and how to keep him back out there over the next ten days.
Alfonso Soriano (15 DXL/$0.98 million)
The Cubs placed Soriano on the DL with a calf strain. There was some chatter about an Achilles problem, but the video is clear on this one-at the time of the injury, he quickly reach down and grabbed the belly of the muscle, which is where the imaging found a “grade II strain,” though one source with knowledge of the situation said the strain is “minor; I’d have called it a I+, but [then] you’d have beat up the Cubs for soft-pedaling it.” (For the record, I doubt that I would. That fine line between I+ and II is seldom something I spend much time on.) The Cubs will be careful with Soriano in his return, dealing with it much the same way they did with his previous leg injuries, telling him to ease up and keeping him out of running situations. I’ll say this again so that no one misunderstands-they’ll tell him not to run all-out, which has nothing to do with his hustle and is the smart thing to do. Soriano shouldn’t miss much past the minimum, but his running and range will be affected for longer than that. The interesting move behind this one was leaving Matt Murton in Iowa. Where’s the “Free Matt Murton” movement?
Joe Borowski (60 DXL/$1.3 million)
Borowski’s comment that he felt as if he were “throwing through water” is one of the best comments I’ve heard about how it feels to pitch through an injury. Afterwards, imaging found a small tear in his triceps, pushing Borowski to the DL. Borowski’s velocity, never an area of strength, was now at a Tim Wakefield level without the movement. The Indians will give Borowski every chance to rehab and come back to reclaim the closer’s role, but the majority of people I spoke with think that Borowski is done closing. “They have too many options,” one front office type said, “and Borowski was just the cover closer anyway.” By ‘cover closer’ he meant that the Indians, like a few other teams, are putting their best arms in the seventh and eighth innings, and using their “good enough” guy as the de facto closer. I still think there’s a choke element that many have to get past in the ninth, but the Indians do have several options, including Rafael Betancourt, who seems to be getting the first shot. (Try not to boo or throw syringes when he comes in to close.) I’ll go on the high side with Borowski’s DXL since the Indians shouldn’t have any need to be aggressive with a return for him.
John Lackey (30 DXL/$2.6 million)
John Lackey recovered well from a bullpen session last weekend and then a short simulated. After no problems making it through the planned 60-pitch session without significant problems in his injured elbow/triceps, he’s now ticketed for a longer sim game this weekend and then a rehab assignment shortly after. His arm showed no issues, even with breaking balls and one observer called him “very sharp.” Lackey was a bit sore afterwards and lacked stamina, but that’s to be expected at this stage of his rehab. The best guesses on timing right now have him making two or three rehab starts and returning sometime in early May to the Angels rotation.
Matt Garza (15 DXL/$0.8 million)
Scott Kazmir (30 DXL/$3.1 million)
Garza is making progress from his radial nerve irritation, and at this stage looks to be coming off the DL around the minimum time away; he responded well to a cortisone injection and made it through a bullpen session without issue. The tough part of gaging his recovery is that Garza has said that the problem only comes up when he’s throwing at 100 percent, like a tire that only blows out at the redline. He’ll have another session later this week and may not need a rehab assignment before returning to the rotation. The news was also good for Kazmir. He went a day early to extended spring training and now has his schedule set for his rehab assignment: after throwing the equivalent of two innings, Kazmir now heads to High-A Vero Beach for a four-inning stint on Friday, then one more start for Vero Beach, then a final tuneup at Durham on April 28. That schedule puts him back at just over the expected 30 days away, but I won’t adjust it at this late stage. The schedule has him set to return against the Red Sox.
Dontrelle Willis (15 DXL/$0.7 million)
The Tigers just haven’t had a good couple of weeks. Willis left his last start with a hyperextended plant knee, the result of a slip on the mound, and headed directly to the DL. The knee isn’t that bad–imaging showed no ligament tears, but the it is sore and swollen, so the DL moved is the smart, conservative move. Willis should be back right around the 15-day minimum, maybe a slight bit longer depending on how the rotation falls on the schedule. These types of injuries are seldom a lingering issue, though Willis’ high leg kick worries some. I wouldn’t worry, though; he’s not dropping onto that plant knee from a significantly higher height than other pitchers. If you think of Willis, you probably have something like this in your mind. Actually, Willis drops the knee down to waist level before getting significant movement forward, as you can see in these clips. Fans can be distracted by Willis’ unconventional-looking motion, but once you see past it, there’s nothing all that special about it.
Mark Mulder (45 DXL/$0.1 million)
Chris Carpenter (90 DXL/$3.3 million)
Raise your hand if you thought that the Cards would have one of the best records in baseball this season. OK, put your hands down, Mr. Mozeliak and Mr. Abbamondi. The rest of you, if you raised your hands, you’re either lying, crazy, or have a Cards tattoo somewhere on your person. The Cards have done this with a piecemeal rotation that has them hoping that reinforcements are on the way. Mulder is the first big-name pitcher to make it back. In his recent A-ball start he topped out at 88 mph but was pitched well, and he ended the game without feeling any pain. His next start will be at Double-A Springfield, a lot closer to St Louis both physically and metaphorically. There’s no definitive timetable on his return, but if he shows the same type of stuff, he’s going to be an option. The Cards also got some positive news on Carpenter, in that he will throw batting practice at extended spring training. He’s still on track for a return around the All-Star break.
Barry Bonds (0 DXL/$0)
I’m just noting that Bonds, like everyone else in the Mitchell Report, was granted amnesty. The Commissioner did withhold the right to punish someone for offenses such as obstruction or perjury, which is what the government is expected to re-charge Bonds with in the near future. Given the amnesty and the exceptionally small chance that we’ll see a Bonds trial before 2009, is this enough to bring a team around to signing Bonds? It doesn’t sound like anything is imminent… yet. One front office type mentioned the Reds as a possibility. I can’t say I see the fit and it would involve some defensive juggling, but there’s some sense to it, because he’d be playing for Dusty Baker again.
Quick Cuts: Carlos Pena left last night’s Rays game as a precaution after his hamstring tightened up while running. … Carlos Beltran is having some neck problems; the soreness is keeping him from being able to turn it without pain, and while it isn’t serious, it is a source of concern. … J.J. Putz will throw a simulated game this weekend, then could either go on a rehab assignment or come off the DL as early as Monday. Look for the M’s to bring him back. … Chris Young of the Padres is going to have his elbow re-checked. … Mike Lowell won’t come off the DL at the 15-day minimum, but it shouldn’t be much longer than that. … Chad Cordero is out as closer for now, as the Nats try to help him figure out where his velocity went. Currently in the low 80s, he’s looked as hittable as Borowski. … Hank Blalock is dealing with a lower back issue and could be headed for the DL. … Dr. Jim Andrews found a bone spur compromising Peter Moylan‘s UCL. The elbow will likely need surgery, but this is a similar situation to what we saw with Chris Carpenter–when the spur was removed, his elbow snapped. I think Moylan’s done for the year, but there’s some glimmer of hope. … Here’s an interesting look at how Johan Santana stays ready to pitch. … The Injury Cost metric I use looks pretty good to me through a couple weeks of use. Two months of Joe Borowski is about equivalent in cost to two weeks of Erik Bedard? Yeah, that seems about right. … Godspeed, Danny Federici.