Under The Knife: Aches slowing veterans Carpenter, Hudson
Chris Carpenter will be limited early and Tim Hudson won't return until May
Michael Pineda is showing signs of seasonal fatigue early in spring training
Wrist problem could drain some power from Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton
I've often compared the injury beat to a weatherman. Sure, the anchor could read the forecast off the teleprompter, but there's something about having a specialist there that gives a level of trust. In many communities, the weatherman is beloved and often an institution. Here in Indy, all you have to do is mention "Swoop" McLain or Bob Gregory, or today's equivalents, Angela Buchman or Chuck Lofton, and people will nod. Where the metaphor doesn't work is that old phrase that "everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Baseball teams are starting to do more, but too many times it's running from a storm rather than building a structure that can stand up to the inevitable wind and rain. You may not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but there's a reason Al Roker makes the big bucks. Powered by an afternoon talking baseball with Joe Sheehan and Rany Jazayerli at Foley's in NYC, on to the injuries:
A few months ago, a comparison to Peyton Manning would have been a bad thing. Today, with Manning suddenly the hottest free agent in the NFL, I'll bet Carpenter doesn't feel quite so bad. Carpenter is dealing with a herniated disc in his neck, much the same problem that Manning had. But hit rewind -- remember that Manning played for several years with the problem and was able to get by with a couple minor procedures before he had to have a fusion done. Even then, Juan Nicasio is showing that a pitcher can come back from a much more serious issue.
The downside with Carpenter's struggling through is lost time and the chance that the Cards medical staff won't be able to control this. Things look promising but Carpenter is always an injury risk. The Cards seem to have Carpenter and Wainwright trading time off. If Carpenter is back throwing in the next two weeks, he may be limited at the start of the season, but he should be fine for at least a while. The long-term prognosis is murkier, but since Carpenter is almost 37 years old and in the last year of his Cards deal, his career probably doesn't have that much of a long term anyway.
More people seem concerned with Tommy Hanson, and for good reason, but it seems like a lot of people haven't yet noticed that Hudson is going to miss the start of the season. The Braves have some young pitching depth, but Hudson is as close to an automatic as there is. His downside at the back end of his career has been some fragility, first with an elbow reconstruction and now a serious back surgery. Hudson had a herniated disc in his lower back and is just getting back to throwing. Hudson won't be back before early May and even that's a bit shaky. He'll need to be cleared to throw off a mound, which is expected this week, and then have no setbacks. We'll have to keep a close eye on this, not only for Hudson, but because if he is out longer, the Braves will have to expose one of their younger pitchers more.
Injuries are not personal. When I wrote about my concerns about Pineda, I knew that Yankees fans would scream bias, say that I hated their team and ... well, do all the things that the fans of the other 29 teams do when I say something they don't like about any of their players. When I started doing this more than a decade ago, it didn't take long to collect e-mails that said that I was biased for and against all 30 teams. Fact is ... it's just about the facts, or the facts as best I can discern them.
I write the above as a preface to tell you I have nothing against Pineda, or for him, for that matter. He's a talented young pitcher and the more talent that's on the field, the better the game is and the more people want to read about it. Pineda is still searching for both velocity and control and showing signs of seasonal fatigue early. Which one he gets back first is key. Getting both back will make him a real No. 2.
The Pirates said Burnett would be out 2-3 months after his orbital bone was fixated. It sounded conservative to me, but the Pirates tend to be a bit conservative with their estimates. With a new medical staff, it's tough to get a solid read. Burnett is already back in camp and doing some activities. He's a ways from doing "baseball activities," but John Perrotto details a lot of the reasons that Burnett's public schedule might not be the one he follows.
Whatever name you use for him, there's a major problem. Stanton has a wrist problem and that's about the worst thing a power hitter can have. Even in the best case, a sore wrist slows the bat and causes a reduction in power over the short term. Stanton took a hard pitch off his unprotected wrist, but X-rays showed no break. The worry now is getting the inflammation down and getting him comfortable. He can take all the time he needs in spring training. Once he gets back at bat, watch his swing-and-misses more than his power. The fine bat control is a better early indicator.
A second instance of back stiffness isn't a good sign for Ethier or the Dodgers. A free agent after the season, Ethier stands to be an early beneficiary of new ownership, if he wants to stay, and proves healthy. The back stiffness is thought to be a muscular problem, but recurrent muscular problems aren't normal. Ethier is having something cause it -- some activity, some weakness, something -- and the Dodgers are going to have to figure out what it is quickly. That it's happening so early in camp usually points to a weakness or conditioning issue, something I have a hard time imagining with Ethier. Watch for the Dodgers to be a combination of conservative with timing and aggressive with therapy.
I was on MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential yesterday when Brian Kenny asked me why oblique injuries suddenly seem to be on the rise. The human body didn't just develop these muscles. It's the specificity we get from imaging and medical professionals rather than any anatomical change. There is a change and it's likely the core. Athletes like to look good on the beach like anyone. One theory that was brought up at this year's ASMI Injuries in Baseball course was that there was an imbalance between the abs and the obliques. Wright's lingering oblique strain was given an image-guided cortisone injection. While some reports had this as an "MRI guided" procedure, that's tough, since needles are metal and don't play well with large magnets. The more normal procedure is done with ultrasound, which I was able to confirm was used in this case. Wright isn't "behind" and this procedure doesn't indicate that it's more severe. This is about making sure Wright gets back and stays back.
You have to see Trevor Bauer's warm up routine. Wow ... Brandon Morrow has been held back by injuries, development and role. This is the year where it should all come together and early signs are positive. There's not another pitcher out there who's stuff I'm more excited about ... David Robertson is out of his walking boot and should be able to get back to pitching in the next week after a scary foot bruise ... Stephen Drew is still having issues with lateral motion. To come back more quickly, he might have to move off SS. The D'backs seem willing to wait on him, but sources tell me they're less sure about him making his target of May after seeing him the last couple weeks ... Bryce Harper's calf strain is "very mild" but gives the team some leverage against Davey Johnson's campaign to have him on Opening Day ... Kendrys Morales is having a solid spring so far, though he's not going to beat out Albert Pujols for his old 1B job. He does become an interesting trade piece or at worst, a bench bat for a playoff contender ... Still some soreness in Logan Morrison's knee, even after surgery and an offseason of rest and rehab. That's a bad sign ... Daisuke Matsuzaka is throwing well, and adding back some of the pitches that he was forced to shelve. He's due for a June return to the Sox rotation ... Brian Matusz is hitting the mid-90s with control. His problems last year were fatigue and mechanics, which appear fixed now ... Clayton Richard is making nice progress after shoulder surgery, though the opening day roster is still very iffy ... David Robertson is out of his walking boot and could be ready for Opening Day. It will be tight, but he doesn't have to build stamina ... If you're the Rays, how do you put Evan Longoria back on a field without some sort of hand protection? With products like EvoShield available, I just don't get why a team (or a player) wouldn't demand it for it's high dollar talent ... An illness has set Mike Trout back enough that he's going to open the season in AAA Salt Lake, if not on the DL. While called "just a virus", it's lingered long enough to worry ... Corey Hart is slightly ahead of schedule after minor knee surgery. The Brewers won't rush him back ... Chipper Jones threatened retirement after his latest bout of knee soreness, but it was the pain talking. There is some discussion about whether he would rather retire or shift to a DH role if it would get him back to the playoffs ... Salvador Perez has his contract. Now he has a sore knee. He was scratched Tuesday, but there's no details yet ... This is an important article and debate. I side with Tim Kremchek on this issue.