Under The Knife: D'backs hope to steal time for Upton to heal hand
Diamondbacks confident Justin Upton only needs rest for injured hand to heal
Michael Pineda's return will test Yankees' mixed results of pitcher management
AJ Burnett is healed but his rehab results will delay his return to Pirates rotation
Tom Verducci probably didn't read my opening from Monday's UTK, but he was thinking along the same lines. This article may end up the tipping point on changing the way bullpens are used, but more likely baseball will ignore it. The glacial pace of change in baseball isn't going to bend to one or two injuries, not when billions of dollars of injuries over the last decade haven't changed a single thing. Maybe we'll see something, years later, the way we have when Rany Jazayerli and Keith Woolner began swinging the pendulum of pitch counts with their Pitcher Abuse Point series. Of course, baseball ignored the logic of that article, along with years of pitching history. We've known about biomechanical analysis for years, yet teams don't do it. We've known baseball needs it's own Combine for it's draftees, but they've done nothing, ceding it to the showcase games that have served only to cause more injuries and enrich an elitist system that's hurting the grass roots of baseball. I don't know what it will take to change baseball. I've been a small Jeremiah on this cause for years, so if Verducci's article can take that to a broader audience, I'm all in favor. (I'm hoping to have Tom on SI Inside Fantasy this week, so if you're not already subscribed to the podcast, it'd be a great time to do that.) Powered by Levon Helm, on to the injuries:
For the past couple days, sources have been telling me that the D'backs were hoping to buy Upton a couple days of rest in order to let his thumb heal. Something like a day before and after a scheduled off-day would work, they hope. It may take more than that. Upton is heading to see a hand specialist to see how bad the injury is and what the doctor thinks is necessary. While a DL trip is possible, no one's ready to say which way this one will go. No one thinks this is that serious, but if the team is going to have to be down a man for a week, they may go ahead and just DL him. The D'backs tend to be conservative and take the long view on injuries. We should know more by gametime Wednesday. (Note: because the specifics of Upton's thumb injury are still unknown, I'm not putting up a specific injury or ERD yet.)
Pineda has been something of an out of sight, out of mind issue for the Yankees. They have enough depth -- for now -- and have Andy Pettitte burning through the minors on his way back to the Bronx. Pineda has progressed through his throwing program and is back on a mound, going 26 pitches on Monday. It wasn't a "full go" session, which he'll have in a few days. If he makes it through that, he'll head back to Tampa for a rehab start. He'll need to build his stamina, so expect at least two starts in the minors, perhaps more. At that point, Pettitte will be back and pushing back into the rotation might be tough. The Yankees could stash Pineda in the minors for a while, which seems pretty amazing, but is in character for them. If we consider that even with injury, Pineda would already bump up against an innings ceiling, the minors isn't a bad plan. Yes, innings are innings, but it's clear that major league innings against major league hitters are more stressful. The Yankees aren't known for their creative management of pitchers. Pineda will be a huge, high-profile test. (By the way, Derek Schultz of Sports Radio 1260 in Indy made a great comparison: Look at the starting numbers of Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey. I was surprised at the similarities for the two pitchers, both products of the '04 draft.)
I saw Burnett pitch on Monday night in Indianapolis, but didn't talk to him. His outing was successful, if you define success by having thrown 80 pitches and not getting injured. Still, Burnett wasn't coming back from an arm injury and a broken orbital doesn't throw off command, or shouldn't. Burnett had good velocity, showing his typical 92-93 on his fastball, but he couldn't get his curve over. The Mud Hens teed off on him, with two long homers. (Shairon Martis gave up the longest homer I've ever seen at Indy's Victory Field, a 450-foot shot into the trees by Jared Head, and that park is not a hitter's haven.) Burnett's delivery looked fine, repeatable, but the results were such that he's going to need to make at least one more start, which changes his ERD.
This brings me to a point of frustration. Burnett's injury is clearly healed, but his return date has been pushed back because of on-field results. But those results don't appear to be affected at all by the injury. Burnett didn't flinch or wear glasses to help protect the bone. Not only does this make it harder to collect data -- "how long does it take to come back from a broken orbital?" is affected by both Burnett's extended rehab and Miguel Cabrera's quick return ? but there are always the wonks who insist I was "wrong." Look, I make mistakes, but someone once said that if you get new information and don't change your opinion, you're worse than just wrong. I'm happy to own my mistakes and learn from them, but I'm beginning to wonder if more people survived being dropped on their heads as babies than I'd expected.
Dan Wade nailed the worries about Baker coming into the season in his Twins Team Health Report. That made me turn to him when the news came down that Baker didn't just have elbow surgery, but that he had Tommy John surgery. Here's what he said: It isn't at all uncommon for pitchers with elbow ailments to have multiple ligaments fixed during one procedure, but it is somewhat less common for a pitcher to go into surgery for one procedure and come out having had others done. Russ Ortiz's 2007 flexor-tendon-turned-UCL-repair is probably the best well-known example of a player undergoing unexpected Tommy John surgery, but Baker is now the most recent. [Note: doctors often will tell patients what they might find and get permission to act. A patient will also often have representation or family present to consent to a further procedure. Despite the team's assertions that his UCL wasn't a problem, Baker left Dr. David Altchek's care with the telltale scar on his right elbow. While the change pushes Baker's rehab time from an expected six months to around a full year, the reality hasn't changed much for the Twins. Baker is still out for the year and the team is still unlikely to pick up his $9 million option after this season. Depending on how his rehab progresses, Baker could miss the first part of the 2013 season, as well, though it remains to be seen whether he'll be back with the Twins or under the care of a new medical staff at that point.
It's no surprise that Ellsbury is a bit wary of the initial diagnosis regarding his shoulder. He's sought a couple alternative opinions, including that of Lew Yocum at Kerlan-Jobe. As I explained on Monday, the worry is about what structures, if any, were damaged, with the key being his labrum. That takes us back to the injury. Ellsbury had his arms stretched forward when Reid Brignac landed on him. Ellsbury was already on the ground, so there's only so much movement the humeral head could make going anterior (forward), which, in this case, was toward the ground. Because Ellsbury was sliding and using his hands to "catch" and slow himself, the biceps were likely firing. Both of those would normally protect the labrum. We'll need imaging and functional testing to know for sure, but the signs at least are starting to look a bit positive. Sox fans could use that after Tuesday's 18-3 demolition.
The problem with any chronic injury is that, by definition, it's something that never goes away; it always bothers the player and can be maintained and managed. It's also something that can flare up, get worse, or cause some sort of cascade injury. Of course, a player can play through it and have a great weak, month or season. Stanton's getting regular treatment and regular off days, but it makes it tougher to value a player. This is an opportunity, not a problem. An inefficient market means that the better informed player can better value any asset. If you understand the issue and understand your own risk tolerance, there's a buy-low opportunity on Stanton in many leagues.
Chris Young left Tuesday's game after injuring his shoulder on a dive. He didn't appear in too much pain, but keep an eye on it ... Some good news for D'backs fans -- Stephen Drew is taking grounders and getting closer to a rehab assignment ... Carl Crawford "felt spry?" That's what Rob Bradford tweeted after Crawford got some swings in an XST game ... With Nick Blackburn missing a start due to his shoulder injury, the Twins didn't need more bad pitching news. But Glen Perkins got hit with a comebacker near his elbow. They'll hold him out until there's no issue. The Twins are locked in with Brian Duensing in the pen, but an extended absence for Perkins would make that difficult or just stubborn ... Ike Davis may be hitting .139 at this point, but no one is blaming his spring illness for the slow start ... The Rockies have a minor outbreak of strep. It's a reminder that a bunch of guys living in proximity is a breeding ground for all sorts of nastiness. Carlos Gonzalez is back, but Jeremy Guthrie is on the shelf and there may be more ... Freddy Sanchez had a setback during his rehab start. The Giants say it was minor, but don't think he'll be back until May. I'd lower any expectations you may have remaining ... BJ Upton is going to be a temporary Biscuit (AA) which sets up a weekend return to the Rays ... Keep an eye on Tyler Clippard's sore shoulder. It's not because of an early increase in workload with Drew Storen out, so it's even more worrisome ... Josh Outman is getting close to a return. The expectation is that he'll go to the pen. With his motion, he could be problematic for hitters ... Casey Kelly, one of the big pieces in last year's Adrian Gonzalez deal, is heading to San Diego to have his elbow checked by team docs ... I made an error in Monday's UTK. I had read my notes on Tim Hudson incorrectly. His work was at Low-A rather than XST. It doesn't change anything I said, but I like to be accurate ... Interesting to see a prospect doing this. Several teams do it with video, but could do a better job with "intent".