Under The Knife: Prior hip condition could slow Rodriguez's return
Need to ease pressure on hip may slow Alex Rodriguez's return from knee surgery
Carlos Gonzalez's return from sprained wrist slowed by stint as defensive sub
Little physiological evidence suggests HR Derby causes second-half declines
The U.S. women's comeback Sunday in the Women's World Cup rates with one of the best in history, with goalie Hope Solo emerging as the true star of the game and the tourney. What does that have to do with baseball, you ask? Nothing specifically, but there are some interesting overlaps. That Solo was able to play at all was because Dr. James Andrews put her shoulder back together. She was playing with 11 anchors inside her right shoulder and enough pain that you have to both respect what she's doing and wonder why anyone would put themselves through it. You also have to wonder why the initial PK went to her left rather than to her weak right. The answer is probably bad scouting, although the next PK went to the same spot, which is bad scouting on Solo's part.
You might have also heard the ESPN crew talk about the heart monitors that are used for monitoring fatigue levels. More and more soccer clubs are using these in practice, with a couple looking to do it in games as well. This has been done in baseball to some extent, though never directly. Dave Yeager, the trainer for the Nashville Sounds, Milwaukee's AAA club, did a long-term study on heart rate and pitchers that was groundbreaking, setting the stage for far more research of that type. Baseball is vastly behind European soccer in terms of sports science and losing the advantage in sports medicine. I know I sound like a broken record about this, but I still don't understand why someone like the A's, with connections to an EPL team (Tottenham Hotspur), don't try to exploit this advantage. When an MLB team hires their first Head of Sports Science, it will be the dawn of a new era. Until then, let's get to the injuries:
The Yankees announced that Rodriguez has been playing with a torn meniscus in his knee for a while. A lot of people have been wondering if Rodriguez was dealing with a recurrence of his hip injury, but absent any evidence of this, I have tried not to speculate about the cause. This is a real win for Occam, a simpler explanation for the same problems. Rodriguez will have the surgery near his home in Miami, being operated on by Marlins physician Lee Kaplan, an expert on articular cartilage. He'll miss around a month, though the severity and location of the tear is an issue. The long end of this would be six weeks, so don't think if it goes past mid-August that there's been a setback. Also, Rodriguez has to contend with his hip condition, which makes it tougher to bring him back early. Even a small change in his gait could put more pressure on the hip, meaning he'll need to be closer to 100 percent than someone else who doesn't have that type of issue. There had been something of a "drop dead date" for surgery, around Aug. 1, but that's moot now.
One side note: With all the discussion of Derek Jeter's 3000th hit, the next two with a real shot at 3,000 hits are Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. Depending on how you define "Yankee," we could go from one to three in short order.
Jones had been dealing with a torn meniscus in his repaired knee for a while, but had fought through for a while, famously talking about playing through pain in relation to Jason Heyward's rehab. I wonder if Heyward tipped his cap to Jones as he headed out for surgery. Jones didn't waste any time, having the scope on Saturday morning and starting right in to the rehab. There are reports that Jones will be back in two weeks, but given his age and injury history, that's very unlikely, even if the tear was in the best location and a small defect. The better expectation is that the injury is minor enough for him to come back in a month.
The Rockies -- or more likely, just Jim Tracy -- made a decision that could prove damaging over the course of time in the NL West. By putting Gonzalez in as a defensive replacement on Friday, not only did Gonzalez re-injure his wrist, the retro DL move was also erased. Gonzalez came in again on Sunday, which is one of those "fool me twice" things on the surface, but I simply can't believe that the Rockies medical staff would let Tracy do this if they thought there was a significant danger of re-injury or exacerbation. All that said, Gonzalez's sprained wrist isn't healing on the normal timetable due to the setback, and the limited play might make it even tougher on the team if he needs to go on the DL. With Charlie Blackmon out for a month after surgery to fixate his foot, the Rockies' OF depth could end up tested. I'm a bit worried about what this is going to do to his power potential for the second half, but I'm not at a stage yet where I'd advocate trying to dump him.
The Red Sox pitching has been their biggest issue this season, as all the advanced work that the team is investing in isn't paying off in the short term. (That investment metaphor is one I'd like everyone to key on as people panic about these injuries and this staff.) But now both Beckett and Lackey are starting to see some returns. The Sox sat Beckett down during an illness, and when he came back, he looked off, as if he couldn't find his release point or his curve. It came back fairly quickly, which suggests that it was nothing more than rust and that the staff was able to keep everything intact while his body healed up. It also reminds me of my own rules against speculating about injuries without evidence.
While things looked out of whack with Beckett and he was coming off an illness, 1+1 does not equal 3. The same holds true for Lackey, in both directions. Lackey looked significantly better in his last start, with more velocity and movement. Doing it against the stagnant Orioles will help any pitcher, but it's more than that. Lackey didn't appear to be doing anything different mechanically, yet was suddenly throwing the ball the way he used to. Is it possible that the Sox changed something or found a treatment that got his shoulder or arm "better" in some way? Sure, it's possible, but we don't know anything more than the data we gained from one start. It's encouraging, but it's nothing more.
The Mets got some great news with Davis, as the bone bruise inside his ankle is responding to rest and treatment. Further, he will avoid the ankle microfracture surgery that would have been a first in American sports. Davis is still a ways from a return, but he is running on a treadmill. Then again, it's this kind of leak that makes the Mets medical staff take so much more flak than they deserve. If Davis has a setback, the stories will pop up in the Mets mediasphere about how it was mismanaged or worse. These kinds of situations happen a lot during rehabs, but contrast this with how Chase Utley was managed through a trial-and-error process or how Zack Greinke was worked back from his rib fracture. Davis' ERD is at best a guess, but there's finally a better than even chance that he returns this season.
The news is also solid on Reyes and Wright. Both are recovering as expected and will come back shortly after the All Star break. Reyes' recovery is still in a danger zone, but things are going to plan at this stage. Wright should begin rehab games soon.
The meme you'll hear tomorrow is that the Home Run Derby causes either a change in the swing or major fatigue. I can't speak much to the first one, though players I've spoken with deny any conscious change. For fatigue, the thought just doesn't match the facts. Is it harder to take 100 hard swings than it is to play in game after game, week after week? Compared to heat racing in track or swimming, the HR derby should hardly register, but there's a continual din about players going downhill afterward. Part of this is the fact that many selected for the derby have had solid first halves and regression spares few. On the other hand, this would be a fine place for some of that ESPN technology to take hold. Would a heart rate monitor put on the screen give us any information? Could John Belkus and his crew tell us how much force was used with each swing or calculate caloric exertion? Maybe Gatorade could sponsor a sweat-o-meter? The problem is like the weather; everyone likes to talk about it, but no one seems to want to do anything.
Ryan Braun wanted to play in the All-Star Game (unlike many, it appears), but has decided it would be best to rest his calf instead of playing ... Placido Polanco will rest through the All-Star break in hopes that the bulging disk in his back can be calmed. He can play through it, but episodes like this can recur at any time, making him very risky for the Phils and your phantasy team ... Ryan Madson will play in Clearwater (A) on Wednesday and could be back with the Phils by the weekend ...Brad Lidge is moving his rehab to AA. He's also starting to show a bit better velocity, a very good sign ... Jose Contreras had what I was told was a "significant setback" during his rehab. He'll head to see the doctors about it, but things sound grim for his return this season ... Nick Swisher has missed three games with his quad strain, but adding those onto the All-Star break should give him enough time to heal up for when play starts again ... Johnny Damon was back in the lineup on Saturday, but out on Sunday. The Rays medical staff decided an extra day of rest would be helpful ... Erik Bedard is on schedule for a return during the Red Sox series starting July 22. While most are focused on the trade deadline, I'm unconvinced the Mariners can deal Bedard. It's as important to protect Michael Pineda and someone has to take the ball ... Activating Delmon Young before the All-Star break only makes sense to a spreadsheet somewhere that's helping the Twins keep their worker's comp payments down. It doesn't help or hurt on the field really, but does look a bit strange. He'll be back in LF, though the ankle may call for the occasional day at DH over the next couple weeks, especially at home ... JJ Putz looks ready to come off the DL and re-take his closer role right after the break. How long he keeps it is another question entirely, and almost entirely based on health ... Lonnie Chisenhall can play through his fractured cheekbone, though it will be painful for him ... As expected, Pedro Alvarez came off the DL and was optioned to Indianapolis (AAA). He'll work on finding his swing, though early results during his rehab stint have been solid ... Carlos Guillen has had a choppy rehab, but he did hit a homer at AAA Toledo. He's expected back soon, though it's very unclear what his role will be. (That one's for you, @phenom1984) ... Enjoy the break. I'll be back with a normal UTK on Friday after a bit of a changeup in this space on Wednesday.