Under The Knife: Injuries bite into A-Rod, Mauer, Reds on the rebound
There's much uncertainty surrounding the injuries for Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer
Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto will likely return to Cincy's rotation soon
Wilton Lopez would be a great closer-in-waiting for Houston -- if healthy
With so many big injuries affecting so many fantasy teams, there's no time for a big intro. That means we should just get right to the injuries:
When you guess, you own the guess. While some around the internet played at being Dr. Gregory House, others just showed their ignorance. It's one thing to make wild guesses of wild diagnoses, ranging from Guillan-Barre Syndrome to Lou Gehrig's Disease, but another to leap out beyond any evidence and say that Mauer would be lost for the season. I don't like to guess, so I went to Dr. Neel Anand, the Director of Orthopaedic Spine Surgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and asked him what has this type of symptomology. "Bilateral leg weakness would be unusual with most lumbar spinal pathologies," he told me. "If bilateral weakness is substantiated on a detailed neurological exam, then attention should be directed to the thoracic and cervical spine and also consideration given to other neurological disorders that may not be related to the spine."
Mauer does have a measured bilateral leg weakness, but it seems now that it was secondary to an oncoming flu bug that really took its toll on Mauer beyond the norm. In fact, the Twins haven't done an MRI and have no plans to do so (though my source left open the possibility of a future MRI, especially one ordered by Mauer's specialist). That he was playing brings up the same point that the knee or back injuries did, however. Mauer is simply too valuable to allow to catch, or at least to catch so much. Mauer still has what the Twins have termed an "annual checkup" ahead of him in Baltimore, but this is looking less like a long-term issue as one of rehab from his knee surgery, conditioning and illness.
More speculation? Yes, the chatter got pretty loud when Rodriguez came out of Saturday's game with what was described after the game as stiffness in his oblique/back. Was this a situation related to his history of hip issues? Simply put -- no. This kind of vagueness is a result of the precision we normally see from MRIs not being available on manual testing. Rodriguez's injury is in that overlap zone where it's difficult to tell without more advanced tests exactly where the problem is. So why not do it? It's unnecessary cost and time. The Yankees knew at that point that it was a day-to-day situation, using the experience of their long-time Athletic Trainers. The weather was a factor, I'm told, as the cold day in the Bronx contributed to the tightness. Rodriguez was held out of Sunday's game, but feels he caught it before it got more serious. The Yankees will watch him closely, but I think knowing there was an off-day Monday tipped the decision to rest him.
The Reds have leveled off after a hot start, but they have hopes of improving soon. They've started the season with two of their starters on the DL, but with Bailey and Cueto making rehab starts this weekend for Louisville, they're one step closer to a return. My pal Scott McCauley, one of the Indianapolis Indians' announcers, called both games, so I asked him for a scouting report:
Both guys competed and took the rehab seriously. A couple of years ago that may not have been the case. Cueto's fastball was at 93 and he threw his slider with confidence, including some on 2-1 counts. He kept the ball down and is change had good drop to lefties. I don't know his timetable, but both managers thought he looked good and he went beyond his 45 pitch limit by 10. Best guess, one more like Saturday and he's back in Cincy. The next game the Indians got Bailey. In the first inning Bailey threw 9 fastballs -- all for strikes -- at 93-94 mph. At one point, he threw 28 pitches and 24 for strikes. His delivery was slow, free, and easy and the velocity was there. He threw the fastball by both right and left handed batters. He went five innings and at the end of the 5th he looked like he had plenty left in the tank. I've seen Bailey before and he has always looked bored in Triple-A. Today I thought he was locked in and pitched with a purpose.
Scott sees all of the International League and I trust his opinions. That report has to make Reds fans - and Dusty Baker - very happy.
As I expected, things are ramping up quickly for Utley. He went from running to running the bases quickly. Over the weekend, he ran the bases, did some shuttle drills to test his lateral stability, and continued with what have been called fielding drills, but that observers called more lateral drills. "They're pushing him to either side, back and forth, left and right. [It's] not so much about range as the back and forth," I was told by one observer. The best news is that Utley's knee showed no real signs of trouble after adding activities. I expect this to continue forward now that the medical staff has gotten ahead of the issue. Now it will come down to maintenance and making sure that there's no surprises. Often there's some setbacks when players go 100 percent, since it's difficult to simulate the full-go or the unconscious uses on the body. Right now, that May 15 ERD is looking like it might be too negative.
Oswalt left Friday's start with back spasms. That's not good, but it's something that Oswalt has dealt with before. Oswalt took his treatment and was back out on the field Sunday to test his arm and back. He came out of that session, observed closely by the medical and field staff, pretty well. The Phillies think he'll be ready to go for his scheduled Wednesday start. He's got a couple more days of treatment before needing to go out there, which helps him and allows the Phillies time to formulate a plan. They'll likely have a long man at the ready in case they see anything negative, likely Kyle Kendrick. This doesn't appear to be a major issue or one that will have any sort of long-term concerns beyond simple maintenance.
Lopez was touted as a closer-in-waiting by many, both because of his stuff and the fact that Brandon Lyon doesn't inspire much confidence in many -- aside from Astros GM Ed Wade. Lopez hasn't looked like the guy most expected this season and it's something of a positive that there's a physical cause. It's one thing to just lose stuff, but another to find a fixable cause. While the short-term is down, the long-term might be up. Even in the worst case scenario, something like Lopez's nerve issue is easily fixed by a transposition surgery. That's the worst case, mind you, and something as simple as a course of anti-inflammatories could free up that nerve. There's no way to put an ERD on this just yet, but don't panic until you hear that it will be more than a minimum stay.
Gut decisions are part of baseball, but not like this. The Mariners have been trying to figure out what's going on with Guterrez for over a month now, but the ups and downs of Gutierrez's intestinal disorder have the team at a loss. They're hoping that a specialist will be able to pinpoint the cause and give them some sort of plan for how to keep Gutierrez on the field. Disorders like this are often what physicians call "rule-outs," meaning that they'll have to rule out several possibilities before figuring out what the real problem is. It can be an expensive, uncomfortable, and slow process, so it's very difficult to tell what to expect from Gutierrez in the short term. On top of that, he'll need to re-gain some of the nearly 20 pounds he's lost during this issue, get back into baseball shape, and get his swing back. That's not going to happen overnight, or even this month.
Quick Cuts: Grady Sizemore is back in the Indians lineup and surprisingly was right back in the leadoff spot. He went 2 for 4 with a HR and double, which is a darn good start ... Tom Haudricort did the math and thinks that Zach Greinke will return May 4. I think it could be two rehab starts instead of three ... Jason Bay could be back on Tuesday if the Mets scouts that watched his two weekend rehab starts liked what they saw. The medical staff thinks he's ready ... Dallas Braden came out of his last start with a stiff shoulder. Braden told the media he didn't think he'd make his next start ... Carlos Gonzalez was back in the lineup on Sunday, but watch out for his stiff back acting up over the next week or so ... Mark DeRosa blames his recent wrist issues on the cold. It's something to watch in daily leagues ...
Speaking of cold, the weather is one reason that Brandon Phillips was held out this weekend. The other reason is that the groin strain is a bit more serious than they're letting on ... Barry Zito hits the DL with a sprained foot and this didn't look good. It's sounding long term ... Hong Chi-Kuo has been pitching with a back problem for most of the season, we learned on Sunday. He'll go to the DL as the Dodgers try and clear that up ... Chris Young was placed on the DL with biceps tendonitis. He's not expected to be out long term, but history isn't on his side ... Frankie Francisco is close to returning to the Jays. He's expected to slot into the closer role immediately or at least very close to that once he's back. The only thing holding him back right now is a roster move ... Brad Lidge's timeline remains confusing, but a visit to team doctors shoulder clear up when we'll see him throwing again ...
Johnny Damon took a ball off his hand Sunday and was unable to squeeze anything after the game. He's day to day, but it will be a couple days before he's squeezing a bat again ... Scott Kazmir has been rehabbing at home rather than with the team. It's no secret that the Angels would like to deal him, but they've had no takers, even when the Angels have absorbed much of his remaining contract ... Interesting and worth reading ... We'll have some special guests on this week's Inside Fantasy, so if you haven't already subscribed, click here.