Under the Knife: Brewers can take time with Weeks; more injury news
Milwaukee is being conservative with Rickie Weeks to get him set for the playoffs
It may come to a point that Andre Ethier is shut down and sent for surgery
Joe Mauer's neck injury is similar to the one keeping Peyton Manning off the field
Having taken a quick break last Friday -- call it a skipped start or a rain out -- we have a lot to cover. I'm not fatigued, but my editors do want to keep me under my normal pitch count so that I'm ready for the home stretch of the baseball season (while doing my own Bo Jackson imitation.) Powered by 240 Sweet, on to the injuries:
The Brewers are doing just fine without Weeks, but they're clearly a better team with him. Their margin in the NL Central is letting them be a bit conservative with Weeks' return, which could have been pushed to this last weekend. Instead, they're keeping him working with the major league staff on lateral motion and planning on a short rehab assignment at some point this week, before the minor league season ends. This isn't a setback, though this is a "slow down". Nothing's changed physically for Weeks, just the circumstances around his comeback. There don't appear to be any real issues with his ankle, but since it's his front (left) ankle, his power shouldn't suffer. By the time the playoffs come around, it should be close to 100 percent.
Ethier's long wanted out of L.A., but the latest article from T.J. Simers is Ethier's attempt to knock down the doors, both inside and outside of the quotation marks. Simers goes along more than willingly, giving him yet another chance to take shots at the organization. It's been easy pickings for Simers as the Dodgers have done nearly everything wrong over the last season, but there are some big clues here. Ethier mentions off-season surgery and "six-inch needles", which points to a minor meniscus tear which can be taken care of with minor surgery. The Dodgers medical staff has been tested this season with the sheer volume of injuries, but I have a hard time believing that they would put Ethier through any sort of therapies if they didn't think they could safely and effectively keep him on the field. It may come to a point at the end of the season when Ethier could be shut down and sent for surgery, but there's a lot of players going through that same situation right now. Ethier was out of the lineup on Saturday, but even after a closed-door meeting, it's unclear if he'll miss any more time.
It's amazing how the attitude of both Twins fans and the Twins themselves have changed towards Mauer this season. Bob Sansevere got Mauer to bristle at being called soft, but any player would. Mauer's injuries are mostly the result of his catching, something Mauer and the Twins have apparently agreed on for years despite calls to shift him to another position, at least part time. There's been a lot of discussion about whether the Twins have just been letting Mauer play the good guy, backing his play and making it look like a team decision rather than one that could be seen as selfish. Losing will bring things like this up, the converse of Beane's Law: chemistry is just a three game win streak away. The former QB's current injury is similar to one a current QB is dealing with. Mauer's neck injury is similar to the one that's keeping Peyton Manning off the field now. Mauer's multiple injuries have ruined his season, but his 2012 could be helped by a real plan for how to use him. Sources tell me that hasn't been discussed yet and won't be until the team gets to it's offseason meetings.
The Indians are in contention despite injuries -- or because of it? Has the Indians medical staff taken what could have been baseball lemons and turned them into lemonade? Sheer numbers don't give a clear picture, but it appears that in most situations, the Indians days lost are slightly below expectations except for Grady Sizemore, which isn't a normal situation. I'm loathe to read much into that, since I think injuries are too individualized to have averages or calculated expectations mean much, though when you draw it out, seeing a medical staff do it again and again is more telling. The latest issues won't load them down, since they'll end the seasons of the respective players. Brantley will have surgery to remove his hamate bone. He'll be fine for next season, but won't have time to return this year unless the Indians go deep into the playoffs. Tomlin's inflamed elbow isn't as severe, but the Indians are going to shut him down for two weeks. The team will look at their record at that stage and if they're not in contention, he'll likely stay shut down.
Asking about Buchholz over the last 10 days has seen a real sea change in the answers. About a week ago, something changed and people I spoke with, inside and outside the Red Sox organization, seemed much more positive about his return in September. The key is not only the rehab work and his response, but the sudden willingness of the Sox to think of Buchholz as a reliever. Buchholz could more easily get into a sixth- or seventh-inning role (why not both!) than building up stamina to get a couple starts. Scouts I spoke with thought Buchholz would have no trouble adjusting and FOTs thought that the scenario might be good leverage against Jonathan Papelbon this offseason. Right now, it's going to be very tight for getting Buchholz into any minor league games, though Pawtucket (AAA) is in first place.
The Phillies could have pushed Hamels back, but the team likes the matchup they see for Hamels against the Reds. They also like the idea of staying on schedule. Getting Hamels back at this stage of the season allows them to not only get him confident and ready, but allows them to start resting their pitchers a bit. With rosters expanding, you're likely to see the Phillies adjust things a bit, buying Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee some extra days here and there. Hamels is locked in as their SP3 as long as the shoulder holds up and there's been no indication that this is anything more than a rest period for Hamels, catching the start of fatigue-induced damage and preventing it. If only more teams could do that.
Strasburg took his rehab up to Syracuse (AAA), where his stuff would get tested. AAA rosters are often loaded with guys who have been in the bigs, which give us a better idea of where a pitcher is. Unfortunately, the Rochester lineup wasn't like that, with Toby Gardenhire the guy who has the most big league time, but that's not playing, just sitting by his dad. It makes it harder to judge the results, but Strasburg's raw stuff was ... well, Strasburgian. He showed good velocity, good control, good command, and featured all his pitches. He didn't seem to struggle and was solid through his last pitch, finishing out at 64 on a pitch limit of 60. (They let him finish his batter.) Strasburg could stay on plan, making one more start with a goal of 75-80 pitches, but there's some consideration of bringing him up now. He was hitting 98 and could easily be shadowed by another pitcher with rosters expanding. He's only got one more minor league start at worst, which would be Thursday, but he's going to be an interesting fantasy decision in some leagues. He's the same Strasburg we saw last year, with all the good and bad that comes with it.
Hanley Ramirez is rehabbing in Jupiter (A) and word is that the team expects to have him back by the weekend. It's important to note that the September 1 roster expansion will create a lot of moves like this one ... Derek Jeter was a late scratch Sunday. He has a bruised knee, but it's not considered serious ... Adrian Beltre thinks he'll need just two games at Round Rock (AAA) before returning to the Rangers. They may wait a bit more for rosters to expand, but things look solid for Beltre's hamstring after a couple setbacks ... Kevin Youkilis is expected to head down to Pawtucket (AAA) later this week. He's been doing well in batting practice, with his back much less of a problem for him than Biz Markie ... Sizemore is making progress, running and taking batting practice. He should start a rehab assignment mid-week ... If you didn't know that playing time and health (including the medical staff) would be a big issue with re-signing Jose Reyes, this should convince you ... David Hernandez took a nasty comebacker off his ankle, but there's no fracture. He'll be fine in a couple days ... Sergio Romo is off the DL and could get some save opportunities if his elbow holds up. The Giants think he'll be a bridge to a healthy Brian Wilson ... Huston Street showed some control issues in his return to the Rockies pen on Saturday. He'll need to show Jim Tracy more before he'll get the closer role back ...The problem with letting the media target Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, and Andrew Friedman in the Cubs search is that it sets up whoever they do get -- no matter how well qualified -- as second choice, even if that's not the case. The Cubs would do well to make this happen quickly ... Carlos Quentin went on the DL with a retro move. Since rosters expand on Thursday, this is a sign that they think he'll need all the time more than they need the roster spot. This isn't a good sign ... I'll have my annual explanation of why September is the key time for injuries and this column on Wednesday. If you don't understand how the rules affect injury management, you're probably not winning your league.
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