Under The Knife: Appendectomy unlikely to sideline Holliday for long
Matt Holliday could be back in as little as 2-3 weeks after appendectomy
Mike Stanton's leg strains could have a dampening affect on his power output
David Aardsma's lingering return could make for good buy-low opportunity now
Sportvision has changed the game with PitchFX and now FieldFX, but at the MIT Sloan Sports Conference a couple of weeks ago, they discussed a new product for the first time. It's called CommandFX and purports to track the catcher's glove. In theory, the glove's "set" would signal the intent of the pitch and the difference between the set and the catch would show how far off a pitcher was in his command. I'm still trying to grasp PitchFX, but immediately, I wondered whether the catchers themselves would be an issue for CommandFX.
I spoke with Eric Kratz, a minor league catcher now with the Phillies organization about the mechanics of catching. I wondered if catchers really did set up in the "right place" or if they were moving as part of the deception. Worse, did some catchers set the glove in some standard spot and then stab at the pitch, as some have accused "poor receivers," like Jorge Posada, of doing?
Kratz worked with minor league pitchers for years and this spring had the chance to catch the exceptional Phillies staff. If anyone would know, it would be him. I asked him how he set up the glove: "I am setting the glove up based on where I would like the pitch to end up. If the pitch is close it will appear like my glove didn't move." That made sense, but what about the idea of changing up the set to confuse a hitter that might be peeking back? "I will sometimes move in different directions than where I am setting up. Start a little off the plate and move to the outside corner so that from the bench it appears like I am going inside, but really I am just moving onto the outer corner. I can see if someone is peeking but I can't tell if the bench is sending them where I'm setting up."
The idea of the bench "stealing signs" is an interesting one. I wondered if he thought that glove movement would be a good indication of command. Surprisingly, he did. "If I reach for a pitch I would say 99 percent of the time it is a missed spot." It's not clear if CommandFX data will be public yet, but it will be interesting data for those who get to see it.
Powered by the Butler Bulldogs, on to the injuries:
I don't understand how reports came out that Matt Holliday would miss "months" after having an appendectomy, unless someone just wasn't paying attention. It hasn't been that long since I had my appendix removed, and while I'll save you from looking at the scar, it's about a three-inch incision made through the lower right quadrant of my abdomen. Today, the procedure is done using laproscopes, the equivalent of arthroscopes, and they've changed the recovery process and time in the same way. Holliday will barely have any noticeable scars by the time he comes back in two-to-three weeks. Matt Cassel, the Chiefs QB, seriously considered playing just four days after a similar procedure last season and was medically cleared to do so. The Chiefs elected not to take that chance, but he did play the following week. Several baseball players have come back in fewer than 15 days, though most have gone on the DL. The Cardinals are holding off, knowing Holliday has a "football mentality" on the best of days, so it's hard for me to believe he won't be back before or at least at the minimum. I don't think it will affect him much once he is back, except maybe for running. Even then, it will be short-term. For those in the St. Louis area, I'll be on Bernie Miklasz's show at around 11.30 a.m. ET to discuss it.
Another strained oblique? Yes, baseball's going to have to take a hard look at this problem, yet in all my calls this weekend, no one had any real answers. Most experts agreed with Mark Verstegen of Athletes Performance Institute, that it was caused by an imbalance in the core, but none were working on research or revamping conditioning programs to try and combat the issue. Longoria was the latest to strain the muscle, which caused him to leave Saturday's game. It's a "significant" strain, I'm told, one that could keep him out three to four weeks. The Rays pushed him to the DL quickly and called up Felipe Lopez, who'll fill in. The Rays have some options at 3B, including using Ben Zobrist or Sean Rodriguez on a more regular basis, but losing Longoria is going to make it tough on the Rays no matter who fills in. If the Rays medical staff doesn't have an answer for the oblique epidemic, no one does. I'm looking hard at this issue and hoping to have more, but "random" isn't a satisfying answer, even if it might be the most likely one.
Collisions at the plate are exciting, but unnecessary. The last couple memorable ones have ended up with a catcher injured, but not as bad as it looked. I was convinced that Carlos Santana had broken his leg when he was hit at the plate last year, but it turned out to be "just" a torn MCL. He's back and fine. Suzuki looked like he had a severe sprain at the very least when his ankle was turned around in a collision with Miguel Olivo (no professional courtesy?), but he stayed in the game. He came out the next inning as a precaution, but he's not expected to miss much time. I am a bit frustrated that MLB refuses to show most injuries as part of their highlight packages. I understand that it's a negative event, but it is an important event, one worthy of highlighting. OK, it would make my life easier and save me the time of having to go through the full game on the brilliant MLB At Bat mobile app.
Tom Verducci liked what he saw from Zach Britton this spring, and now an injury will give Britton a chance at the majors a bit quicker than most expected. Britton was recalled to replace Brian Matusz on the roster. Matusz, scheduled to start on Saturday, had been dealing with what had been described as "mild upper back pain" for the latter part of the spring. Now that the games were about to count, Matusz was at first pushed back, then placed on the DL. Here's where it gets a little confusing. It went from soreness to pain, but always in the upper back, which as described made me wonder if he was having a lat problem. Instead, it turns out the issue was an intercostal strain. The intercostals are between the ribs and isn't an unusual injury, but for Matusz, it's the location. The ribcage does go all the way up and it appears that Matusz's injury is both higher than we normally see and toward the back. It took some advanced imaging to find the problem, I'm told, which makes me wonder why it wasn't done earlier. The O's will have to let the injury heal, then build Matusz back up. It's not going to be a minimum stay, but one source told me that May 1 was a "pretty negative" ERD. I'm going to error on the side of caution here, but if we see Matusz throwing by mid-month, it will adjust shorter.
Stanton is the pick of a lot of people to be the home run king for the next decade. To do that, he's going to have to stay on the field. Stanton's had a hard time doing that this year, first missing much of the spring with a strained right quad and now completing the pair with a strained left hamstring. Some might think these aren't related, but walking/running is always related. One small change in the gait can lead to all sorts of issues. Now, these aren't necessarily related or a cascade situation, but ruling it out because of it being opposite legs is silly. Stanton was pulled on opening day as a precaution, but the team held him out for the weekend. The Marlins are either extremely cautious or this is at least serious enough to cost him two and a half games, maybe more. This remains something to watch, since the legs are a key part of any power hitter's swing. Stanton's running is really irrelevant, but even if this is minor, we'll have to watch to see whether there's any residual effect on his slugging.
You have to take some Opening Day reports with a grain of salt. Teams like to mix in a little sunshine for the players they put on the DL, so absent some new and compelling info, I usually ignore these kinds of reports. For Morales, it seems like there is new info on him. He's taking grounders, running some and showing some increased mobility on that sore foot, which is a cascade from a slightly reduced range of motion in his ankle. The problem now is keeping this from becoming a recurrent problem, meaning the Angels will have to be on watch for this, maintaining the ankle and foot for the rest of the season. Morales should be back at the minimum or close, but watch to see if they play him at DH early or do things to buy him off-days.
The Jays are already thin at the CF slot with Corey Patterson and Scott Podsednik on the shelf. Having Davis unavailable on Sunday meant Mike McCoy had to take CF. Davis' ankle is an obvious issue for a player whose value is dependent on speed. While the Jays staff thought Davis would be able to play through it on Sunday, he was a late scratch and there was some indication that the turf was an issue. For his part, McCoy said "take your time, Rajai!" with a 2-3 day and a very small sample .571 average. Davis should be back this week, but for fantasy players, it's a smart play to keep him on the bench until you see him trying to steal again. It's worth missing one to get that indication.
The Mariners are starting to sound a bit more optimistic on the return of Aardsma. I'm not quite as optimistic as some, but getting Aardsma back at the end of the month is possible. He's running without pain, recovering well and throwing light bullpen sessions. He's not going "full go" in those sessions and recovery and stamina are going to be major issues, but the M's have the luxury of seeing if Brandon League could function as a co-closer (or even Pipp the job outright, letting Eric Wedge ease Aardsma back in even more.) Aardsma is still a couple weeks away at best and there will be plenty of landmarks that will give us plenty of time to figure out how he'll slot in. If someone's freaking out about Aardsma being on the DL now, it's worth trying to buy low on him. That opportunity should be there for at least another week, if not longer.
I began calling Tom Verducci's "Year After Effect" the Verducci Effect and it stuck. I want to run with Murray Chass' idea of calling the seven-day concussion DL the "Schwarz List", to credit Alan Schwarz for driving its creation. I also hope my friend Alan wins the Pulitzer this year for the coverage that is saving lives ... Chase Utley was taking fielding practice on Sunday with the team. It's not a huge positive, but he's not immobile either ... Jeff Francis has done what several other sinkerballers haven't -- he returned from surgery and pitched well in his 2011 debut. His next challenge will be maintaining his stamina ... Ubaldo Jimenez didn't look like himself, especially to the radar gun. The Rox say it was a cut on his cuticle and that he's iffy for his next start, depending on how his thumb responds to -- get this -- pickle juice. Somewhere, Rany Jazayerli is crying ... John Danks had to make an emergency trip to Cleveland's dentist (yes, every team has one on call) and pitched Sunday on painkillers ... Shane Victorino missed the weekend with a mild calf strain. He's not expected to miss much time, but the Phillies are a conservative team with injuries that could get exacerbated, especially this early in the season ... Jake Peavy threw the first of two sim games that will have him back with the Sox by mid-month. Reports are that it went "perfect. No issues" ... The Reds are having to hold the reins on Johnny Cueto. He's making "good progress" and should be back mid-month ... Both Rich Harden and Andrew Bailey made it through weekend sessions and will have big tests as they try to keep moving forward. Both could be back as soon as mid-month. Judging the new A's medical staff is tough, but these are pretty good indicators for the early season ... Barry Zito made his Sunday start and showed no ill effects from his auto accident ... Juan Uribe is expected back this week after his elbow swelled dramatically. He was hit on the elbow by Tim Lincecum. Many suggested a bursa sac might have burst, but the Dodgers would not comment ... The comments back and forth from the Mets and Yankees regarding Pedro Feliciano are very telling. The idea that a pitching coach can't judge a pitcher's readiness on anything other than a question is laughable. If that's what Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen is doing, it's no wonder they've had the injury situation in their pitchers that they have. His job is often to protect the pitchers from themselves, keeping them on that thin line between availability and effectiveness ... If you haven't had a chance to listen to the debut of SI Inside Fantasy yet, I hope you will. Even more, I hope you'll consider it "your show." I'd love to hear from you about what you want to hear, whether that's more from me and Eric, interviews, or something else. Please let me know on Twitter (@injuryexpert) or via e-mail.
Will Carroll is a member of the BBWAA and PFWA.